This is going to require a little bit of explanation, but let me try to boil it down for you as succinctly as possible.
Thomas Randall does not exist. He began life as the fictional protagonist of my novel STRANGEWOOD, a children's author whose imaginative creations come to disturbing life and intrude upon the real world. Years later, I was in the process of making a deal for a trilogy of horror stories set in Japan, but at the time I was under contract with another publisher who had an option on my next "teen or YA" novel. The option specified that it was for work written under my own name, thus the deal for this new trilogy required a pseudonym and I thought it would be amusing to be Thomas Randall for a while. Even the bios inside the books noted that Randall was the author of the bestselling children's fantasy series Adventures in Strangewood...which doesn't exist.
So that's where Thomas Randall comes from.
Why is A WINTER OF GHOSTS credited to Christopher Golden & Thomas Randall? In other words, to me & me?
Bloomsbury published the first two novels in the trilogy (originally called Cherry Blossoms, which was deemed too sexual, and later called Gaijin Girl, before finally settling on The Waking). The first two novels, DREAMS OF THE DEAD and SPIRITS OF THE NOH are still in print from Bloomsbury and available--relatively inexpensively--in both print and ebook. It was important to me that people who've read the first two be able to find it, but also that people who have no idea the books are mine finally make the connection.
Do you have to read the first two books of THE WAKING to enjoy A WINTER OF GHOSTS?
Not really. It's certainly recommended. I think that you'll get more from the story and the characters if you do read the first two books, but plot-wise, A WINTER OF GHOSTS definitely stands on its own. Everything you need to know about what's come before in order to enjoy this story is recapped during A WINTER OF GHOSTS. So if this is your first exposure to Kara and her friends, you'll be fine.
What else do you need to know?
How about--are these things any good?
Critical Praise for The Waking: Dreams of the Dead
Named one of the NYPL Books for the Teen Age
"The Waking: Dreams of the Dead starts as the dream of everyone who has ever wanted to travel to an exotic, far-away country to start again, and weaves a nightmare based in rich Japanese culture and myth. I can't wait until it is released and I can recommend it to my readers." - Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, author of In the Forests of the Night and Persistence of Memory
"Newly transplanted to Japan, 16-year-old blond-haired, blue-eyed Kara Foster is a gaijin, or outsider. Kara is eager to assimilate into Japanese culture, although when she is bullied by a group of popular girls she quickly learns that her new school has the same clique issues as its American counterparts. When mysterious, supernaturally tinged deaths start to occur, it becomes very clear to Kara how different this school really is. Drawing upon Japanese mythology and Noh plays...[and] including such tropes as sleep-deprived students plagued by horrible nightmares, teetering on the brink of madness...Dreams of the Dead incorporate[s] many elements of contemporary Japanese culture and thus may appeal to those with an interest in it, especially manga fans." - Kirkus Reviews
"Kara Harper and her father have moved to Japan, following the tragic death of Kara's mother, and are trying to settle into a new school, and a new culture. While living in Japan has been a dream for both of them, Kara is finding the reality of life as a 'gaijin girl' a little tricky. She discovers that her school holds dark secrets, including a classmate's sister's mysterious and brutal death, and that the dead girl seems to be just one of the supernatural presences on the campus. Will Kara and her new friends (and enemies) survive long enough for this 'bonsai' to prove she can thrive in her new location? A great book for fans of fairy tales and dark fantasy from non-European cultures." - Maryelizabeth Hart, Mysterious Galaxy
"Two years after her mother dies in a car wreck, 16-year-old Kara Harper and her father move from America to Japan because of a love of the country and to start a new life. But death is all around them at Kara's new school: a student named Akane was murdered there several months earlier, and as Kara befriends Akane's sister, Sakura, other students begin dying under mysterious circumstances. Sakura is sure that Akane has risen from the grave to avenge herself, while Kara and their friend Miho guess that a demonic entity from Japanese legend is responsible. Randall fills the story, first in the Waking series, with details about Japanese culture and evocative descriptions ("Miyazu Bay reflected back the blue sky with a purity that made her breath catch... leaving an American suburb behind for natural beauty such as this was like waking up in some magical kingdom"), while slowly building tension and winding the plot ever tighter, weaving together current threats and age-old mysteries. Regardless of readers' level of familiarity with Japan, the horror-tinged story should fascinate and thrill. Ages 12 & up." - Publishers Weekly
"Randall links an effectively worked horror story with the traditions of Noh theatre; readers get a healthy dose of cross-cultural insight and understanding while being thoroughly spooked by a demon much older and more malevolent than the tame, sparkly vampires of recent fame." - BCCB
"The manga craze has hooked many a teen on Japanese culture, and Randall weaves much Japanese language, mythology, mores, and etiquette into this fast-paced opener to the Waking series." - Booklist
"Randall describes the scenery, the culture, the characters, even their clothing, with heartfelt details. The story has suspense, mystery, and horror. It will be a great hit with fans of manga, anime, or Japanese culture." - School Library Journal
"A well-structured tale of ancient spirits who exact revenge upon humans. A brisk Japanese adventure." - VOYA
"5 out of 5 stars. Evocative and deliciously spooky, Dreams of the Dead is the first in a trilogy about ancient myths, long-sleeping demons, and being a stranger in a strange land... The myth that is used brings to life the stories that one hears and makes you feel as if you can touch them. I felt as though I was on the edge of my seat reading this. I loved all the intrigue with in the story and can’t wait to read the next one in this series." - Lyra Rose
"The Waking is a beautifully written piece of young adult literature." - Galleysmith
"I really enjoyed this story! The surreal world of dreams merging with reality is haunting. For fans of The Ring, this is sure to be a hit." - Kim Baccellia, YABooksCentral.com
"With a mix of murder, myth and an ancient Japanese evil, this book will have you reading with the lights on!" - Library Lounge Lizard