Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Giveaway & Author Spotlight: Rick Daley

The Graffiti Wall is pleased to welcome a wonderful MG writer, who's taken the story of Santa Claus and turned it up on its head. This is a fantastic Christmas read and a MUST purchase for any reader, lover of the holidays, and family peep! Truly. I'll release my review soon, but I've included a review below from another reader on Amazon. Also, Rick's been gracious enough to offer up a copy of his book! You can enter below.

Meet Rick Daley, writer with over 15 years experience, husband, and father. 
 Author of The Man in the Cinder Clouds
Today, we're going to chat with Jason, Rick's main character. He's really excited to be here, so let's give Jason a warm Alleyway welcome.

Hi Jason!

Alleywalkers cheer and wave frantically.

I know you had quite the adventure when you went to the North Pole with your scientist dad. It didn't start out that way, though. It was boring. And cold. 

What did you first think when your dad found that very old book?
When Rebecca first came into my dad’s office and told him they found a book in an ice core, my first thought was, “Great, now he’ll disappear back into the lab and I won’t see him until we leave to go home.”  But then he actually let me go into the lab to see the book. I knew it would be something special.

When we started reading the book, it was so cool!  The words can change languages automatically, so when Juan read it, the words were Spanish, and when Professsor Nara read the same page, it was in Japanese…and all I saw was English.  It turns out it was written by an Elf, and it tells how Kris Kringle became Santa Claus. It wasn’t easy, I can tell you that! 

On the outset, you and your brother had different views of Santa and the possibility of his existence. Can you tell your readers what it felt like when you decided to give up hope that Santa really did exist?
My brother Justin had told me there was no Santa Claus, and I knew he was wrong.  He lies about everything.  Justin’s always trying to tease me, like the time he got me to drink a big gulp of Tabasco sauce by telling me it’s what they use to make Cherry Coke.


I thought the North Pole would be like the movies…Santa would have a big city, with trees everywhere and lights and bells.  I brought a camera to take pictures to prove Justin was wrong, but when I got there, it was just snow and ice.  No Christmas village, no fields of reindeer games…not even a single Christmas tree!  I thought it would be impossible for anyone to live there.  Boy was I wrong! 

I don’t know what was worse, thinking there was no Santa, or thinking Justin was telling the truth for once. 

Could you briefly explain Elf Rules, and then tell us why you were so concerned about anyone violating those rules? Where you afraid to get Kris in trouble?
The Elfs are really old.  I don’t know how old, but they’ve been around a lot longer than humans, that’s for sure.  They have all sorts of laws, and one of the most important ones says Elfs can’t make contact with humans.

When Kris Kringle got the High Council to agree to let him deliver presents to people, they were afraid he would lead the humans back to the Elf’s Glens, so they made a list of thousands of Rules he had to follow, and the first one was that he had to leave his home and could never come back.  But there was a loophole in the Rules: if Kris could prove that humans were not all wicked and evil, and that true virtue could be found in the human heart, then he could return.

My dad’s research team all wanted to use the book to get rich, and they wanted to use it to track down Santa and find the Great Northern Glen (that’s what the Elfs call Christmas Village).  No human’s ever been there.  I thought that the Great Northern Glen had stayed hidden for so long, it must be hidden for a reason. 

Kris has an amazing story. As you, your dad, and the other crew members read the story, what did it feel like to begin to understand it?
It was frustrating, because none of the grown-ups were getting it!  All they could think about was getting rich, selling the book to a museum and making people pay to see it.  They didn’t understand that the real treasure was what the story said. 

How did you feel about meeting the Reindeer? I thought they were fascinating.
I know, right?!  Before Kris met the reindeer, I thought it was hopeless. The kids he found in Oldenton were both in danger and Kris was the only one who could save them.  I always wondered how Santa met up with a bunch of flying reindeer, now I know!  That was one of the coolest parts of the story.

What did you see about the old book that the adults missed, at least on the onset? You seemed to see something much deeper right off.
The adults always thought the book was theirs, you know, finders keepers.  But I knew it belonged to Kris Kringle, and we needed to find a way to get it back to him.  The adults couldn’t stop thinking about being rich, but there’s more to life than money isn’t there?  My dad got all wrapped up in the details, and his research team kept trying to find out where the entrance to Great Northern Glen is, but I came up with a way to return the book to its rightful owner.

What is the greatest lesson you learned from Kris' story?
If I had to pick the most important thing it’s something Thomas learned: sometimes giving something away feels just as good as getting a present.  What was really cool was how Thomas learned that lesson.  I really want to tell you more about that, but I think you’re better off just reading the book and finding out about Thomas for yourself!

Awesome, right?

To ENTER for a chance to WIN a copy of The Man in the Cinder clouds, leave a comment and a way to get in touch with you when you win! Share a favorite Christmas memory, please!! Winner will be announced Dec. 19th. 

Check the other MMGM posts, highlighting MG books today! Shannon Whitney Messenger, Shannon O'Donnell

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.

Visit Rick at his Blog or the official Cinder Clouds Website.


  1. Santa Claus is like Cinderalla - always room for a new spin on it! Looks great!

  2. Loved meeting Jason and this sounds like such a fantastic read! I love christmas stories! Thanks to the both of you for the great interview!

  3. This sounds really interesting. I love the idea of the book in the ice. Thanks for the giveaway.

  4. How fun is this? Don't enter me (I already have it), but I wanted to stop by and wish Rick all the best. My boys have been clamoring to read the book again, now that Christmas is drawing near!

  5. I love new twists on old tales. The TRUE Santa Claus story. I'm intrigued.

  6. Laura- Thanks! It was a fun book to write, and both kids and adults have been very positive with the feedback, I hope you have the opportunity to read it.

    Query Girl- Sheri's the one who came up with the awesome interview, all I did was act as the go-between for Jason ;-) The story has a lot of Christmas spirit, but a good deal of action and suspense, too. It's like Batman Begins but with Kris Kringle instead of Bruce Wayne.

    Natalie- The book in the ice concept is what started the whole thing rolling. I like it because it helps make the story feel real...I wanted to bring the legend to life.

    Sue- Always glad to hear from you ;-) Thanks for introducing me to Sheri, and for your continued enthusiasm for this book!!

  7. Oh wow. Rick this looks awesome. Enter me, Sheri! *jumps up and down*


    My favorite Christmas memory? I found my bike before Christmas. Dadai (my dad) told me I had to look surprised on Christmas morning. I put on the show of my life. Let's just say the show was overdone. I think Mamai knew. But she never said a word.

  8. Oh, this is awesome! I won Rick's book from Dr. Q a few months ago, and my 9 year old is reading it now. She says it's "great!"--I've got to show her this post when she gets home from school. I was planning to let her do one of her reviews again.

    Yay! Thanks, Sher, and best to Rick~

  9. Great interview! I don't need to enter the contest because I already bought a copy. You can buy a copy too, then if you win, just give one away. I thoroughly enjoyed Rick's take on Santa. Way to go Rick!

  10. What a great interview, and a great premise for an MG read! Thanks, and good luck, Rick!

  11. This book sounds great . . . my students are always asking for Christmas novels and there are so few of them.

    My fave xmas memory . . . I guess when I was 7 and got the Crissy doll with hair that you can make longer and shorter.

  12. How fun is this! I love it!

    My favorite Christmas memories are of driving around town on Christmas Eve just to ooh and aah at all the pretty lights on the houses.


  13. i don't know if the giveaway is international, but anyway here is my favourite Xmas memory: I was around 8 years old and I was desperate to get some family quality time. (whiny child, I know, but still...). on 23rd December my dad (who was NEVER home) took me to see all the Christmas trees around my town and we had fun watching decorations, shiny shops, and we sang Christmas songs while drinking hot cocoa in the citycentre. Back home, mum and I baked cookies and pies and I've never felt safer or happier than that day. Wish I could go back in time!

    aliasgirl at libero dot it

  14. That sounds incredible! I think I'm going to put it on my list to get for our daughter. Thanks for the interview!

  15. What a cool premise!! OMG I'm Jewish and I'm interested in buying the book!!

  16. I first fell in love with this story through Susan Quinn. Great post, Sheri.

    Every year since 1979 my step-mom has bought us a dated Hallmark ornament. When we grew up and finally had our own tress, we had YEARS worth of Christmas memories to hang on its limbs. Now, my children get one every year. Decorating the tree is so much fun, remembering why they got which ornaments and watching as the kids proudly hang up their own. :-)

  17. That sounds cool. I'm not a big one for Christmas books, but my daughter might like this one.

  18. Okay, well now I want to read this book with my seven-year-old (Age appropriate for him?!?). AWESOME!

  19. Oh Jason this sounds so fun! A timeless Christmas story. I'm always looking for something new to read to the kids. Thanks for stopping by and chatting with us!

  20. Thanks tio everyone for the kind words about the premise, I hope you have the opportunbity to read the story and if you do, I hope you feel the rest of the book meets your expectations! I think it's a special story, but my opinion is somewhat biased ;-)

    Reading mind- Santa delivers internationally, so will I!

    Lisa- I have a Jewish friend that read it with his daughter and they both en joyed the story. It does mention Jesus, but in more of a historical context than a truly religions one...although it's open to read more into it for a Christian reader.

    Christina- 7 years is a fine age, it would be more for you to read aloud, he might struggle with reading it himself but will get drawn into the story.

    I'll be back to share my favorite Christmas memories...I have an appointment with a class of 4th graders!

  21. This sounds Great Rick! Even if I don't win this is number one on my list. Could I get an autograph anyway? I'm going to give my daughter a copy for Christmas.
    Chuckybookerspizza hotmail
    Keep on keeping on!!!

  22. I always enjoy reading a character interview. It's fun and it really makes me want to find out what's in store for me when I get into the book.

    Thanks to both of you for the post.

  23. Gosh, I've never heard of this. Who's the publisher? What a fun and imaginative interview.

    I've been posting MMGM reviews for more than a year. I'll add you to my MMGM list, Sheri.

  24. I have this story on my computer via Kindle app. I'm very excited to meet Jason today (Hello Jason!!!) and I look forward to reading more about your adventure very soon.

  25. Aw, thanks for stopping by and all your enthusiasm! I know Jason and his creator must be thrilled!!

  26. Rick, have a blast during your 4th grade class visit!! You'll have to come back and share what happened. I've been asked to speak at three schools in my state and I don't even have a book out yet. Yikes!! I need advice. :)

  27. Anon- Please email me at rjdaley101071 (at) gmail (dot) com and we can make arrangements for a signed copy...I sell them direct. The cost is $10 for the signed book plus shipping. It usually comes to $15 and some change for destinations in the US.

    Cleemckenzie- The character interview as a blast for me, too! Sheri did a great job with her questions.

    Joanne- The is an indie book. It's not stocked in many bookstores, but it is available in print and e-book at and Give it a chance, it's a really good story!

    Angela- Thank you, and happy reading! Please let me know what you think when you're finished, you can reach me at rjdaley101071 (at) gmail (dot) com

  28. I really enjoy these kind of interviews, they are so creative. And giveaways are always fun.

    hg195 at yahoo dot com

  29. If the book is anywhere near as funny as the interview, then it must be an awesome book. This is one of the BEST interviews I've read in a while. :D

  30. Stina- "The Man in the Cinder Clouds" is by far the best thing I have ever written. Sometimes I wonder if I can do something like that again, it's a pretty special story, the way it all comes together. I really like the ending, the last line is a nice capstone to complete the story.

    My favorite Christmas Memory- As a young boy, I wanted a BB gun, just like Ralphie in A Christmas Story. I think I was 11 when I got one. I really had to prove I was responsible enough to have one, and I didn't think I had my parents convinced. I woke up at 5am and peeked at the tree, as was my custom. There it was, unwrapped and in front for me to see.

    My favorite recent Christmas Memory- For my first son, at ages 2 and 3 Christmas kind of caught him by surprise. He didn't know what to expect Christmas morning, there was no real anticipation, other than what my wife and I built up. But when he was 4, he was finally understanding what was going to happen on Christmas morning. He woke up early and peeked at the tree. Must run in the family. Later when he could contain himself no more he woke us. As we walked down the stairs he looked at me in wide-eyed wonder and said, "You won't believe how much stuff is down there!"

    We always hold back a good amount of booty, and put it out after the kids go to sleep and before Santa drops off his gifts. I also pull the presents out from way under the tree so they come forward and spill into the room more. It's a nice visual effect!

  31. Sheri- Here's what I can tell you about school visits. I've been to 4th grade and 3rd grade classes this year. It started last year when my son told his teacher, "My dad writes books for a living" and she invited me to read to the class.

    So he overstated the "for a living" part, and at that time I had nothing published, but his teacher was willing to let me in anyways. I read the first few chapters of my book RUDY TOOT-TOOT and had them rolling on the floor laughing. Granted they were seated on the floor to begin with, but still...they liked it.

    I also did a presentation (20-30 minutes) about the writing process. It was called "Examining page 20" and focused on what page 20 said over several drafts. For the first three drafts, the story wasn't even 20 pages long. Then the content of page 20 shifted around as the story grew (to 75 pages), and then moved some more as I revised.

    His teacher really liked it and through her recommendations I met several other teachers and librarians.

    These days I am spending 75 minutes in the classroom:

    - 20 minutes reading "The Man in the Cinder Clouds"
    - 45 minutes interactive writing workshop...I have a presentation that plays a "Guess the book from the premise" game (e.g. A boy wizard = Harry Potter). I give them a premise at the end for our workshop: A treasure hunt.

    Next I have a series of questions to create a protagonist (good guy, to them) and antagonist (bad guy) as a group. Person or animal? Boy or girl? Old or young?

    We vote on which direction to take the characters, then they come up with words to describe what the character looks like. When they say something vague like "weird" I press for specifics.

    Then we talk about plot, and I ask more questions: What happens on the way to the treasure? Where do they go? Across a desert, over mountains, through a forest? What are the challenges along the way?

    I close by reading RUDY TOOT-TOOT for about 15 minutes.

    The main things I've learned:

    - Make eye contact while reading. Practice glancing up without losing your place on the page.

    - Read slowly, and make each word sound like it means. Put some character into your reading and you'll draw the kids in.

    - Keep control of the discussion. If you lose control, it's very hard to gain back once they all start talking.

    - Guide their decisions. They will come up with ideas, and you want them to, but sometimes you can be the deciding voice in which of many ideas you'll use for the group story.

  32. Wow, Rick! That is some fabulous stuff. Thank you so much!!

  33. You're welcome, thanks for having me here and supporting my book. I'm happy to share my experiences, good luck with your school visits. I know some writers dread them but I think they're a blast!!!

  34. Sounds awesome!! Thinks for mentioning it!

  35. Wow. I already wanted this book, but now it sounds even cooler than it had before. Well done, guys!

  36. Sounds like a fun book to get. Love all the elements of it put together. Have a great week! :O)

  37. Thanks Diane. If you like the description, I think you'll really like how the elements come together in the story! I hope you get a chance to read it.


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