Scars of the Winter Frost

The Sugar Plum War – Book 1

Inspired by E.T.A. Hoffman’s classic fairy tale, “Nutcracker and Mouse King.”

Once Clara’s favorite holiday, Christmas is now an event she barely tolerates thanks to one disastrous Christmas Eve nine years ago. But tolerance is better than what she once felt… absolute terror. And she’s worked hard to overcome her fear. Gone are the days of full blown panic attacks and childishly pretending to be sick to avoid opening presents. At sixteen she’s finally ready to face her fears – of decorated trees, her godfather’s house, and most especially, a toy nutcracker.

But her holiday survival skills are tested when a stranger joins her family’s festivities, she interrupts a late night break-in, and is shoved through a magical grandfather clock. Dumped in the middle of a strange yet enchanting world–one locked in a deadly war–Clara’s forced to rely on the cursed boy who’s haunted her dreams for far too long. As she journeys to find her way home, she discovers a power she’s long suppressed, a bond that crosses two worlds, and the courage to fight for what she believes in–whatever the cost.

Where the Idea Came From

I love music. Growing up, I constantly had music playing (still do actually). I can remember listening to my dad’s vinyl records, singing along with every song from the greats like Creedence Clearwater Revival, Steppenwolf, Don McLean, the Grass Roots, the Eagles, and so many others. I also come from an Italian family. It wasn’t uncommon for my grandmother to have the Rat Pack (Dean, Frankie, Sammie and yes, Bing too) crooning away while she cooked. Between junior high and high school I played six different instruments, sang in my church youth choir and was part of the youth handbell choir. So at an early age I developed a rather eclectic taste in music, which included classical music.

My favorite classical composer is Peter Tchaikovsky and, hands down, my favorite piece of his is the 1812 Overture. Not surprisingly I also love his Nutcracker Ballet. I remember watching it on TV as a kid. I’ve seen the live ballet (and various versions of it) several times. At Christmas its not uncommon for me to indulge in the Ovation network’s annual “Battle of the Nutcrackers”, in which they play several versions of the ballet and viewers vote on which they like best. (I’m a purest. My favorite is Peter Wright’s production performed by The Royal Ballet.)

Clara and her nutcracker, Royal Ballet
Clara and her nutcracker in The Royal Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker Ballet, my favorite version of the ballet

The idea for this story came while watching this marathon of Tchaikovsky goodness. I asked myself every author’s favorite question… what if? What if Clara was a teenager? What if when she’d been given the nutcracker things didn’t turn out so well?

I also asked myself, what was the original story of the Nutcracker? Was it written for the ballet or did it come from something else? Being the fairy tale lover that I am, I did a little digging. I discovered the story’s origins and popped over to bookstore to purchase myself a copy of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s original tale. What I found in those pages was different from the story being told on the ballet stage. Yes, they’re similar, but at the same time they’re vastly different. The ballet leaves out so much of the original story, which is actually two stories in one – a fairy tale and an anti-fairy tale (a fairy tale that doesn’t have a happy ending). Compared to the ballet, Hoffmann’s tale is much more complex and brimming with amazing characters, places, and relationships. The more I read, the more I wanted to explore this world and make it my own. And so… The Sugar Plum War was born.