Monday, November 30, 2009

Christmas Blog Tour

"The Christmas Dog" by Melody Carlson is a sentimental book. A widow named Betty is in her small town by herself. She has children, but they have their own lives. They will occasionally visit, and grandchildren frequent her house, but, for the most part, Betty is on her own. To make matters worse, she has a new neighbor. Like the stereotypical crazy neighbor, the man makes plenty of noise and hubbub. This is because he is doing construction and remodeling--or demolition, as Betty likes to say. Anyway, Betty has much internal conflict as she reflects on her years--added to that the nosy questions from her close friends about her situation. However, one day, a dirty little dog comes by. Betty tries to shoo it away, but it keeps coming back. At first, Betty thinks the dog belongs to her neighbor since it runs between yards. Eventually, her opinion of the dog changes when a climactic even happens. In the end, there is happiness and a bit of sap. This book moves fairly slowly, but it is satisfactory for those that like quaint books about older women and dogs.

"The Unfinished Gift" by Dan Walsh is an emotional novel. The main character is a little boy named Patrick. His mother has died in a car crash, so he has to live with his grandfather. The reader is taken aback at how the grandfather treats his grandson. There is tension, and much dramatic suspense arises. Also, the reader learns of the unusual relationship between the grandfather and son (Patrick's father). While living with his grandfather, Patrick finds a unique object that catches his attention. The grandfather yanks it away from the boy, and mystery ensues until later when the reader learns the history behind the object. The setting of this book is around Christmastime during World War Two. It is interesting when the author inserts letters from Patrick's father to Patrick's mother that were stored away. This novel will move readers because the boy is only seven. Also, the boy's precocious level of piety will make readers smile. The ending is a bit predictable, but the journey there is definitely worth the read.

Melody Carlson, author of Limelight, Love Finds You in Sisters, The Christmas Dog, 86 Bloomberg Place, Diary of a Teenage Girl, The Carter House Girls, and much more... This is an interview with her:

1. What made you choose to write a book about an older widowed woman? Did you ever think back to the story in the Bible about the widow and Elisha?
I’m not really sure what made me choose an older widow. It was more like Betty Kowalski “chose me” when she popped into my head. And despite being widowed relatively young, she’d had a fairly happy and content life…but with Christmas around the corner, economic challenges, no family to speak of, a “declining” neighborhood, and an “obnoxious” neighbor across the fence, Betty was just plain fed up and Christmas good cheer was not abundant. I didn’t specifically think about Elisha and the widow, but that story is a good parallel. In the same way Elisha filled the widow’s oil jar, God used a little dog (and a few other characters) to fill Betty’s depleted spirits.

2. Do you have an idea for next year’s Christmas book yet?
I always write my Christmas novellas in July, and they release about fifteen months later. So I’ve already written next year’s Christmas novella and it might be my favorite ones so far. It’s called Christmas at Harrington’s and it has some very fun twists and turns. As usual, I start the character out with some major challenges—much more so than usual this time—and yet by the time the story ends…well, I guess I can’t tell you what happens. I’ll just say that I had a good time with that book.

3. Was there or is there a special dog in your life that spurred the idea for The Christmas Dog?

Long ago, when our boys were preschool age, we were asked to doggy-sit by an international college student we’d befriended. She said it would only be for a week, but we ended up with that dog for sixteen years. She’d rescued the scruffy little mutt from the streets and named him Prince. And although he looked nothing like a “prince” he turned out to be A Prince Among Dogs (and actually has a book named after him). He was probably the inspiration for the dog in the book.

4. Do you have a special Christmas memory that stands out as extra-special?
When I was a little girl, Oregon experienced a major flood one December, right before Christmas. The flood was so devastating and widespread that it closed businesses and roads and made the holidays miserable for a lot of people. Because my mother was single, the need of an extended family (particularly during the holidays) was extreme. But my sister and I talked our mom into making the three hour trek to our grandparents, where we actually drove through a flooded river (watching a VW bug floating away) to get there. Then, once we were there, my grandfather told us that due to the flood we couldn’t go to the woods to get the usual tree. Naturally, this was a huge disappointment. But with a twinkle in his eyes, Grandpa took us out to the front yard where he proceeded to chop down one of his own beautiful holly trees. Decorating the tree was a prickly affair that year, but the end results were stunning. Worried that he’d be sorry about chopping down his tree, I later asked him about the sacrificed holly tree and he informed me that the city had told him to remove the holly trees from the parking strip because they obstructed the view for traffic.

5. Do you have a favorite Christmas tradition that you can share?
My favorite tradition is simply being with family and friends. Does it get any better than that? But because my husband’s birthday is also on Christmas Day, and because he got tired of having turkey for his birthday every year, I asked him what he’d prefer. “Lasagna,” he proclaimed. So for the last fifteen years, we’ve had lasagna on Christmas Day and everyone seems to enjoy it more than turkey.

Dan Walsh is author of "The Unfinished Gift," received 4.5 Stars/Top Pick from RT Book Reviews, and has "The Homecoming" (Revell) coming out in June of 2010. His websites are: and Below is an interview with him:

1. When writing this book, why didn't you choose to make the war the one in Iraq? Was there something special about WWII?
I guess the simple answer is, the book came to me in a WW2 setting. It was just after Christmas several years ago. I actually saw the ending of the book first, like a movie playing my head. Over the next several days, different pieces of the story would just pop into my head. I'd stop whatever I was doing and write them down. But as I researched and wrote the book, I realized another benefit for this setting. America was such a different place, so unified. Life itself was much simpler and faith was a normal part of life. It allowed me to move in and out of important issues, including faith issues, without seeming the least bit forced or preachy. That has allowed the book to crossover to unchurched audiences quite easily. I've gotten many emails from readers saying they felt they could easily buy the book as a gift to someone they're trying to reach.

2. Do you have an idea for next year’s Christmas book yet?
Yes and no. My editors at Revell aren't really looking for me to write an annual Christmas story. They'd like me to write in the same genre (inspirational historic fiction), but not necessarily to stay in the Christmas season. The sequel to The Unfinished Gift, for example, carries the same storyline and characters but doesn't take place at Christmas (it releases this June). My third book begins a brand new storyline with new characters set in 1857. Having said that, back in August I got a wonderful idea for another Christmas novel. Both my agent and editor loved it, and want me to finish it, so that's what I'm writing now. Not sure it will be coming out next Christmas or the one after that.

3. Do you have a special Christmas memory that stands out as extra-special?
I do. I was in 5th grade in a little suburb south of Philadelphia, not unlike the setting of The Unfinished Gift. It was my last Christmas up north. The next year my Dad moved us to Florida. It was Christmas Eve, we were setting up our tree (that was our tradition). One of my little sisters shouted, "It's snowing." We all ran to see. Sure enough, it was coming down hard, harder than I've ever seen. Philadelphia will get snow in the winter, but there's no guarantee it will snow on Christmas Eve. I'm pretty sure that was my first white Christmas; I know for a fact it was my last. It snowed all night.
We woke up Christmas morning to the always-amazing sight of toys sparkling under the tree. But equally amazing was the sight outside. A full two feet of snow covered the ground, with drifts up to five feet or more. It was the most beautiful scene. But in 5th grade, scenery matters just so much. The real marvel came the next day when the snow plows went through, carving out a single lane for cars. The best part was where they dumped the two huge mounds directly across from each other. Two perfectly-formed snow forts. All the kids from one side of the street challenged the kids on the other to a snowball fight. An epic battle, that lasted all the way to New Year's Day.

4. Do you have a favorite Christmas tradition that you can share?
Yes, it's the night we set up the tree (not on Christmas Eve, usually in the first week of December). We play our favorite Christmas music CD's and drink egg nog (I have no self-control with egg nog). After the tree is completely decorated, we take out the videos of our kids when they were little at Christmastime and have the best time, sitting on the couch, with just the lights of the tree lighting the room, drinking egg nog, remembering.

For excerpts to these books plus a bonus excerpt from "Finding Christmas" by James Calvin Schaap, please visit:

1 comment:

Dan Walsh said...


Just wanted to thank you for the kind review. Glad you liked the book. And thanks also for the interview and all the time you spent helping to get the word out about The Unfinished Gift. Hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas.

Dan Walsh