Author Interview- Sarah J Pepper - Death of the Mad Hatter


  • ISBN-13: 9781492823919
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
  • Publication date: 11/27/2013
  • Pages: 322


Hi Sarah Welcome to The Reading Frenzy 
Hello everyone!!!! Thank you so much for coming today! 

Tell us about Death of the Mad Hatter
Well, this is a delightful, twisted, crazy piece that I simply had no idea I was going to write. Truth be told, I’m petrified of Lewis Carrol’s story of Alice in Wonderland. It ranks high on my fear list next to spiders and the third shelf in my fridge where all my food goes to die.
Anyway, I really didn’t fathom writing a story where animals could talk and up was down, but down was slightly off to the side until I stumbled upon Josh Wilcoxon’s photos. He is a FABLUOUS talented photographer and does “twisted fairy tales” when he’s not taking wedding pictures. So, as I was saying, I was bored one day and was stalking him (in the non-creepy way) and found this little gem. I just had to put words to the picture. Thus, came my quirky yet savy Alice Mae from the Death of the Mad Hatter.  

Is this a stand alone novel or will it be a part of a series? 
Well, initially this story was to be a stand alone, but after I sent out my early releases, I got back an overwhelming response to continue the story. I’m pretty sure some readers would come at me with pitchforks and fire if I didn’t keep going… okay, my imagination might be getting the best of me, but I had some very enthusiastic email. *which is always great to read*

What do you find most rewarding about writing in the YA fantasy genre?
Is this the only genre you write? I write both YA/NA/Adult. 
Gosh, I’m just all over the board here, huh? It’s like I can’t make up my mind what age I want to address. (come in close because this is a HUGE secret!!!) I love everything there is to know about romance. The love. The hate. The passion…. So, the age range really depends on how much I am able to “control” myself.  When things start getting horizontal rather than vertical between my characters, that’s when I decided what age group I’m shooting for, lol. And my romance is always magical, so guarantee it’ll always be some version of paranormal or fantasy 

Tell us about getting published. 
Oh published…. Was it easy… ummmm, sure! About as easy as scaling Mt. Everest J Okay, I’ll put the verbal filter back on. Getting published isn’t easy and if someone tells you it is, they are living in La La Land. (maybe I should visit) anyways, I work for three different publishers depending on genera and age, as well as a few indie published books – those actually came later. I wanted to “give self-pubbing” a go.  Anyways, as far as overnight success?? Yep, that was me. See my story was that I wrote a book, fell into a coma, and then woke-up when I got my first sale – oh, hell. Seriously, I think my verbal filter fell out. No, it wasn’t a huge overnight thing where I had reporters in my lawn and the paparazzi following me. Have I made it into magazines? Yes! Television? Yes!!! But, was it easy? No, I love my books like they are my children… well, in a way they are a huge part of me. I pour my heart and soul into the book and would fight tooth and nail to give them the best shot they have. 

When you first put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard what was your biggest surprise about writing a novel?
Oh everything. See, I have this proven writing strategy: let my characters do whatever the heck they want…. Okay, I can see this may need more explanation.  I focus on character development. I let them “tell me” about themselves and how they would react to certain scenarios.  So when I get about halfway through a novel, I’ve completely lost all control of the premise and just “go with it.” 90% of the time, I have no idea how the book is going to end or “who will die” or “what will happen.” It’s as much of a surprise to me as it is for the reader. I just love it!

What kind of books do you like to read?
Anyone with Eric Northman in it. 

Sarah, what do you see yourself doing in 5 years?
Hopefully not living in a cardboard box throwing books at stranger as they walk by while yelling “read me!”

Honestly, I haven’t a clue! See, when I was younger, back in college (yep, dinosaurs walked the earth back then) I had a plan for everything—literally, everything was laid out before me in nice neat rows. And then, well, let’s just say my “plan” got flushed down the toilet. So, I had to just blindfold myself and react. Yep, that’s me now?

Sarah, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions.
Will there be any signing events?
YES!!!! AND I’D LOVE TO MEET ALL OF YOU!!!! I’ll be at the Sweet as a Peach Conv in Atlanta, GA in April and then at the Penned Con in St. Louis this Sept.

Connect with Sarah – Website - Facebook page - Twitter

Advent: A Counter-Sign for Christmas

“It’s beginning to look a lot like ...”

... that time of year when we celebrate Christmas for roughly four weeks, beginning in late November, and ending abruptly on the day following that which is actually Christmas. On Sirius XM satellite radio, six channels are devoted solely to Christmas music (and one to Channukah), some beginning as early as now, three ending on (you guessed it) the day after Christmas, and two others ending on New Year's Eve. The Latino channel goes until January 7. Don't ask me why. Needless to say, the stores are already in full swing with holiday decorations and people killing each other at Walmart for a steal on pre-paid cellphones.

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In response to premature but well-intentioned attempts at goodwill, one of my good colleagues once remarked that, even with this overture of light-heartedness in the midst of crass commercialism, “they are committing the same anti-Advent error as the secular culture is. Some counter-sign!”

He's right, but is there an alternative?


It should first be remembered that the Advent season, which begins one week from today, is itself part of the Christmas Cycle, that which traditionally began the liturgical year with the First Sunday of Advent, and continued on into the twelve days of the Christmas season, and thereafter into Epiphanytide, up until the pre-Lenten season of Septuagesima (the three Sundays that were prelude to Ash Wednesday). To celebrate Advent then, is already to celebrate Christmas, if only to a point.

Is Advent only about doing penance?

Modern dilettantes on matters liturgical like to tell people, at their sophomoric weekend workshops, that Advent is really not like Lent at all, that it is a season of expectation, not penance. Nearly two thousand years of evidence suggests this to be, at the very least, misleading. In the Eastern churches, the forty days preceding Christmas is one of the four seasons of fasting, with what is known in the West as Lent referred to as "the Great Fast." It begins with the Feast of Saint Philip on the 14th of November (according to the Eastern calendar), and is therefore known among the Slavs as "Filipovka." Even in the West, the notion of fasting or abstinence, is akin to the Famine before the Feast. Yes, it is indeed about penance, if for a purpose that is different from Lent, and yet similar to a point.

The time for those of the Domestic Church to stop wringing their hands, and taking matters into them instead, is long overdue. This venue has been active in the same cause for nearly a decade. (Where the hell have the rest of you been?) Parents who complain that their children will grow up learning nothing of Christmas but crass commercialism, and that the 26th of December is the day of the Big Anti-Climax, have an alternative. They'll have to work at it a little. They may even have to find other families of like mind within their parish, whether or not they ask for the pastor's cooperation in putting the kabosh on parish "Christmas parties" in mid-December.

You can almost hear it now.

“But, but, Mister and Missus McGillacuddy, the families will tell me they’ll all be out of town.”

"But, but, Father, that still doesn’t make it Christmas yet, does it?"

On the other hand, we all know what awaits the church bulletin in certain other places, which isn't much better.


Here at Our Lady of Perpetual Mediocrity, we remember the sacred dreariness of the Advent season, with the forbidding of any and all celebrations on parish property, so as not to take away from the 24-hour-maximum joy of the feast of our blessed Savior's birth, not to mention the fullness of the twelve days of the Christmas season (more or less depending on when Epiphany falls on a Sunday; God forbid the Church interfere with your weekdays), when you'll all be out of town anyway.

Yours in Christ,
Father Billy Bob


In dealing with the celebration of Christmas in its proper perspective, we must first remember that what we have now, with endless shopping and carols on the radio in preparation for a single day, appeals to our nature. We have an innate sense of the seasons of the year, the times of our lives. We delight in anticipation, or else the department stores would have nothing to which to elicit the usual response. And yet, we have also led ourselves to believe that taking more than a day off to celebrate anything is somehow excessive unless we leave town over it. We are just as likely to spend over a month preparing to celebrate the second biggest holyday in the Church year on only one day, just like everyone else. So why should the rest of the world take the idea seriously that Advent isn't Christmas yet? We don't behave as if it is anymore than our neighbors, except when we complain about ... well, our neighbors. At least they're having more fun with it than us.

Every year at man with black hat, we celebrate the season before, during, and after the Feast of the Nativity. You and your family can celebrate each day with us. But first, we begin with Advent.


The most popular household devotion of Advent is, of course, the Advent wreath, which originated among the German people as early as the 17th century. What began as the lighting of one candle for each day in December leading to the 25th, eventually evolved into the lighting of four candles to mark the Sundays of Advent, usually at the start of the evening meal. For the first week, one is lit; for the second, two, and so on, until all are lighted up to the eve of the Nativity. The candles are traditionally purple, to coincide with the penitential nature of the season, as seen in the priest's vestments. The third candle is usually pink (or more properly, rose) to mark the mid-season occasion that is Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday.

This display is also popular in parish churches, which is somewhat of an anomaly, as it is not a liturgical practice in the strict sense, but a pious custom more suited to the home. Be that as it may ...

At the beginning, especially if there are children, they may be invited to begin by singing the first verse and chorus of "O Come O Come Emmanuel" as the appropriate number of candles are lit. A portion of Scripture for the Mass or Office of the Day may be read. The devotion culminates with the traditional Collect of the Mass for that Sunday.

V. O Lord, hear our prayer.

R. And let our cry come unto Thee.

V. Let us pray ...

Advent I

Stir up Thy power, we beseech Thee, O Lord, and come: that from the threatening dangers of our sins we may deserve to be rescued by Thy protection, and to be saved by Thy deliverance. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end.

R. Amen.

Advent II

Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to prepare the way of Thine only-begotten Son: that through His coming we mat attain to serve Thee with purified minds. Who liveth and reigneth, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end.

R. Amen.

Advent III

Incline Thine ear, we beseech Thee, O Lord, to our petitions: and, by the grace of Thy visitation, enlighten the darkness of our minds. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end.

R. Amen.

Advent IV

O Lord, we beseech Thee, stir up Thy power, and come, and with great might succor us: that by the help of Thy grace that which is hindered by our sins may be hastened by Thy merciful forgiveness: Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end.

R. Amen.

Beginning on Christmas Eve, the violent and rose candles are replaced by white candles, which remain until the end of the Twelve Days. (Devotions associated with the Twelve Days of Christmas will be found within this venue at the proper time. Stay tuned ...)


Another popular devotion is the Advent calendar, which marks the days of December leading up to Christmas, irrespective of the beginning of Advent (which begins anywhere from November 27 to December 3). This practice, which originated among German Lutherans in the 18th century, had origins similar to the Advent wreath, with the lighting of candles to mark the days. Eventually the use of the wreath would evolve into either the wreath, or an elaborate structure resembling a calendar, but with closed compartments each containing a small gift, to be opened one evening at a time until Christmas Eve.

Most of us have seen inexpensive Advent calendars in card shops and church bookstores, but there are some very good ones that can entertain the children of the house, or otherwise remain as treasures over the years. One of our favorites is the Kurt Adler Wooden Nativity Advent Calendar (see image above), which comes complete with 24 magnetic figures contained behind their respective doors. Each day, a figure is removed from its container, and placed appropriately on the empty manger scene, to be completed on the night before Christmas. At a price from Amazon of just under $69 (with alternative distributors selling for a bit less), it may be a bit expensive, unless you consider it as lasting for several years, and passing it down to your children when they have families of their own.

If you order now, it will only be a little bit late.

Barring that, there are numerous alternatives to be found among Traditional Advent Calendars from Germany by Richard Sellmer Verlag.

And yet, what if you want to make your own, and you want it tomorrow? Here's a great idea. The Pottery Barn has this one at a steal for only $143.00. But hey, for a fraction of that, you could go to the arts and crafts store, find twenty-five tiny baskets, the same number of adhesive numerals, and a properly shaped cardboard or particle board, and whip up one of these puppies over the weekend. (Personally, I'd number them starting at the bottom, not the top. But hey, that's just me.)


Another form of the Advent calendar is the "Jesse Tree." This depiction of multiple imagery is that of the ancestry of Our Lord. At its heart is a passage from the book of the prophet Isaiah: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” (11:1) Examples in stained glass of cathedrals date to the 11th century. You can find a cornucopia of examples by clicking here or here, or you can use the image provided here. Simply click on it, print it out at its actual size, paste it on card stock, and cut out the images, hanging them on a small artificial tree on a counter top or kitchen table. This can be a wonderful learning tool for the entire family. Descriptions of various schemes can be found at


There are a number of saints' feast days which occur during the month of December, which have over the centuries developed a close association with the preparation of Christmas; among them, Saint Barbara on the 4th of December, Saint Nicholas on the 6th, and Saint Lucy on the 13th. The customs associated with them will be described as they arise in December, but if you click on the name of the saint, the folks at can give you a head start. After all, at least one of them involves baking cookies.

On a related note, we would be remiss if we did not remind you of the calendar feature at The Old Farmer's Almanac, which will show you the "red-letter days" of December (including saints) on the first of the month.

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It is hoped that the above can provide you and yours with a means of commemorating the season, in a way that will delight your children, and teach them something of their precious Catholic heritage. There will be more depictions and devotions as the season progresses, and we celebrate the Year of Grace here at man with black hat.

Stay tuned, and stay in touch.

(H/T to for their extensive research into Catholic customs, and also to Ryan for presenting us with the challenge.)

A Baker's Dozen: Reflections From a 17-Year-Old Bride

So yesterday we celebrated Thanksgiving - my extended family (siblings, their kids, in-laws, grandchildren) all gathered at our house and had a wonderful time. Today finds Rick and me on our way to Helen, GA (and the Christkindlmarkt) for our 39th anniversary trip. Yikes! I've been married over two thirds of my life! In honor of this momentous occasion, I'll share a few quick tidbits:

1. Having come from a very traditional Catholic family, I wasn't allowed to date until I was 16. As luck would have it, Rick came into my life the month of my birthday. Quickly loved by my mother, he was a bit more challenged to win my heart - because I had eyes for the boy with the motorcycle or maybe the one with the guitar. This one came with a tractor and a country way of life. 
2. He also argued religion from a Baptist perspective. It didn't compute in my teen brain - initially. But slowly, over the course of a few months, my heart was firmly won. Good sense overtook the thrill of cheap adventure. By the beginning of my Junior year we were a couple and roamed the halls together - him carrying my books. On Sundays, we attended Mass in the morning with my family and sometimes attended his church at night.
3. Fast forward several months and he began talking about marriage - Rick (Tricky Ricky) never actually asked, he just started talking about 'when (not if) we get married'. He also began to talk about conversion to the Church and was fortunate enough to have one-on-one sessions with the parish priest. 
4. Our courtship was chaste, even though he knew about the 'issue' the wagging tongues relayed. My son was two. We married on Thanksgiving weekend of my Senior year.
5. We spent the first 20 minutes of our honeymoon on our knees, praying the Rosary. Then we called my mom - to say goodnight.
6. Rick had put his conversion on hold - until after the wedding. Although I was initially disappointed - since we wouldn't be able to receive the Eucharist together - good sense won out as I realized this meant he was converting for himself - not just to please me.
7. We returned to the real world a week later - me to school and he to his job as a millwright and part time farmer. He also continued his meetings with Father and, a few months later, was brought into the Church.  
8. I completed high school, then college - our 1-year-old son attended my graduation. My other son was five. Rick finished his apprenticeship with the millwrights, became a journeyman and continued to farm part-time.
9. We lived through blizzards, catastrophic losses and even bankruptcy, but we had our love and our faith to sustain us. Soon, we were gifted with a daughter. And we were still young - he was 26 and I was 25 - but marriage was old hat by then. We had it covered. 
10. Sometimes we continued to pray together, sometimes we prayed separately, but we always attended Mass and always stayed close to God and each other - more or less.
11. Several years passed and hope of another child was all but abandoned - then came another son. This time I was an 'old' mom of 31 and I cherished every moment of staying at home with my brood of three.
12. Both of our mothers died of cancer, as did his brother and grandfather. His grandmother died of Alzheimer disease - all this within a year or so. Genetic testing won over, in my case, and my fertility ended via prophylactic surgery to prevent the BRCA-1 gene from killing me as it had an uninterrupted line of women before me.
13. In the following years we've moved several times, changed careers (not just jobs), built a
house, married off a son and then a daughter. All children have returned to live with us, for a time, as adults. There are now 7 grandchildren - ages 3 through 9 (plus 5 who are with Jesus) - and we have lost all fear of an empty nest because ours is always an Open House.
These past 39 years have flown by and I can't really remember not being married. We've had our triumphant ups and our horrific downs. I've survived breast cancer (8 years and counting), in large part due to my knight in shining armor/court jester and the awe-inspiring prayers of friends from around the world - and of course, the grace of God. And if I had to sum up the reason for the success of our marriage in one word it would be, not love (a very close second), but GRACE. Our love is strong and has sustained us, but the real life-blood of our union is the Grace of God. He has been there, through it all, and for that we are deeply thankful!

Love you, Richard Joseph Jones! May we have another 39 years (and Eternity) together!

Santa Claus.

This time of year plenty of pastors (and I) get asked, “What do you think of Santa Claus?”

And when they ask this, they eye us warily. Some of them love all the Santa traditions this time of year, and the last thing they want to hear from us is they’re wrong. Others deeply disapprove of Santa stealing the focus from Jesus at Christmastime, and if we don’t share their concern, they’ll think we’ve compromised. Yes, folks, it’s a test of our orthodoxy: They’re not interested in what we believe, unless we already believe as they do.

My view is somewhere between the extremes, so nobody likes it. Oh well.

Read more…


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Happy Thanksgiving and Adopt a Family

Happy Thanksgiving! I have so much to be thankful for with all of my loved ones.  I am so happy to be 28 years old and to have learned so much and have worked so hard just over the past few years.  I am thankful for growing and learning from mistakes.  I still continue on my journey and I know that God has a place for me in life.  I am so thankful for all of you that have helped me on my teaching journey as well... it has been truly wonderful.

Here are a few things me and my kids have done over the past week for Thanksgiving :]

 First of all since my kiddos learned all of their letter sounds, we had an Alphabet Celebration! They stomped on balloons to find a letter of the alphabet and we celebrated with songs of  that specific letter.  We made Chicka Chicka Boom Boom trees with the letters in their names, and we made words with scrabble cheezits! They had a lot of fun : )
 We made Thanksgiving Wreaths and with the extra paint I made a special tree for one of my kiddos in the classroom... I never like to waste ;)

 My adorable sweeties also made their own butter for Thanksgiving! I made them corn muffins (which they HOUSED.. so cute!) They were so proud and I was so proud for them :]
 Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Chanukah Everyone!!

Stay Tuned for the Cyber Monday and Tuesday Sale on TPT :] I will be having my sale through Wednesday as well... If you go Black Friday shopping tomorrow, be careful! I will be going with my bestie like we always of our favorite days of the year xoxo
 (Cute graphic made from the amazing Jennifer Jones from Hello Literacy)

I also wanted to express that I am doing an Adopt a Family for a single mom of 4 children - nursery, pre k, 2nd grade, and 4th grade... I am taking donations to my Paypal account to make their holiday season wonderful.  This mommy always has a smile on her face, has a heart of gold, but also no family to help support her.  If you would like any more information please ask, I didn't want to be to specific in case she looks at my blog [which I figure she doesn't, hehe] 
My paypal e-mail is .... even a few dollars help.  If you do decide to donate, do not hesitate to e-mail me for any teacher product you would like from my store.  Bless you all! XO

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