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Thursday, September 01, 2016

Ready For Christmas Yet?

Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of 17 novels, including The Unfinished Gift, The Reunion and When Night Comes. He has won 3 Carol Awards and 3 Selah Awards. Three of his books were finalists for Inspirational Book of the Year (RT Book Reviews). Dan is a member of ACFW and Word Weavers. He lives with his wife, Cindi, in the Daytona Beach area where they love to take walks and spend time with their grandkids. Click here to connect with Dan or check out his books

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The title I really wanted for this post was from that classic old Yuletide song: It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas, but it was too long.

Here’s the thing, this weekend I just finished my newest novel (#17). One I’ve been working on all summer long (in Florida, our summer starts around mid-May). Our nickname is the "Sunshine State" with good reason. It’s warm and sunny the better part of the year, and especially during the long summer months. People come to vacation here from all over the world this time of year. They visit all the theme parks like Disney World and Sea World, and many of them spend a few extra days tanning themselves on our beaches. My wife and I live in the Daytona Beach area, historically referred to as, “The World’s Most Famous Beach.”

The novel I just finished is called Finding Riley, Book 2 in my inspirational Forever Home Series (Book 1 is Rescuing Finley). It’s also a Christmas novel. Yes, that’s what I said. Which means, I've been writing a Christmas novel for the last four-and-a-half months during the dog days of summer. Turns out, this is my 5th Christmas novel. And this past weekend it dawned on me…I’ve written every single one of them during the hot summer months here in Florida.

That’s not how I planned it, it’s just how things worked out (more to do with things like schedules and deadlines). Why do I bring this up? I don't know. Maybe I'm looking for some extra credit. I'm not talking about money here. All my Christmas novels, thankfully, have done very well. And readers have been extremely kind in their reviews. But I imagine many of them picture me writing these Christmas books wearing a thick sweater, sitting by a cozy fire, a nice mug of hot chocolate beside my laptop, a Johnny Mathis Christmas CD on in the background. Occasionally, I pause, glance around the room at all the beautiful sparkling Christmas decorations for inspiration.
I wish. 

Here’s the real picture…I’m wearing a short-sleeved shirt, short pants and flip-flops. I have the air-conditioning turned down as low as I can afford (to ward off the beads of sweat that would otherwise constantly run down my back). Throughout the day, I try NOT to look outside, because all I see is sunshine and palm trees.

So, where does my inspiration for these lovely, inspirational Christmas tales come from? I’ll tell you where (and why I’m fishing for compliments here)…from my wholly unassisted imagination. As I pondered the hardship I’ve had to endure (well, okay…that’s overstating it a bit), I’ve wondered if my challenge is not unlike modern-day actors who work on hi-tech movies almost entirely created with CGI special effects.

Have you ever seen those “How They Made ________ “ documentaries? It makes you realize just how talented some of these actors and actresses are, as they try to act and react to big things happening which none of them can see. All they see are the other actors in their costumes and these huge green screens everywhere. Directors are having to tell them what will movie-goers will actually see weeks or months later in the theater.

Hey…that’s an idea. Maybe I could set up some green screens in my house and project some beautiful Christmas scenery on them.

Well, let’s end with 2 things. 
First, a blatant plug for my new Christmas novel, Finding Riley, which you can Pre-order from Amazon for $3.99 by CLICKING HERE. It will release 1 month from now on Oct 1st.  
And secondly, I'd like to ask those of you who write novels to share some of your crazy writing stories. I'm talking about unusual behind-the-scenes stuff that most readers would never imagine. The kinds of things that have really challenged your ability to be inspired or hindered your motivation.


  1. My first YA series is set in the Up North Michigan town of Elk Rapids, which I rename Cherry Hill in my books. We live about 200 miles south of this little gem of a town. We were camping nearby two Octobers ago, and it happened to be unusually cold. The thermometer never broke 30. But we were only about 40 miles from Elk Rapids, so I convinced my wife to go check it out so that I could get a better feel for the town. Elk Rapids is located on Lake Michigan. Think the outer edge of the ring finger, even with the pinky. That's north. And when it's below freezing and the wind is blowing off the lake (which it always is), it's downright uninhabitable. But that didn't stop me from dragging my wife through Elk Rapids, visited the landmarks I'd onlyl seen on Google Earth up to that point. We ended up at the park and beach. I swung on the swingset where my character ends up in my first novel's end. I walked the beach. My wife hid behind trees, trying to avoid frostbite. I'm lucky to still be married. But I did get some tidbits to add to my story. And we have returned in warmer months. Somewhere, perhaps in Elk Rapids, we need to build a monument for the spouses of authors. They endure so much.

  2. My Chapel Springs series was that way. The second novel ended Christmas night. I wrote it in the summer. The third book took place in Spring and Summer and was written through the cold wintry months. It seems to go like that. 😀

  3. I totally hear you, Dan! When I first began writing my Amish-themed novels, I lived in central California. There are NO Amish groups in California, or at least there wasn't at that time. How could I possibly write about something I (presumably) knew so little about? Well, my first encounter with the Amish culture came during the summer of '86, just after finishing sixth grade. Our family took a long summer vacation (It was a blast!) across the good ol' U.S. of A. and one of our stops was in Lancaster, PA. While I had no interest in the Amish culture at the time, I did find their old-fashioned ways intriguing. And, I fell in love with Pennsylvania. It wasn't until years later, though, after having read many books on the subject, both fiction and nonfiction, and watched documentaries, did I have any interest in writing about the culture. Little did I know at the time I began writing, that we would uproot our family and move across the country to the heart of southern Indiana Amish country. Who ever would have thought this California girl (who loves the beach) would be happy in landlocked rural Indiana Amish country?! Apparently, God did! And I thank Him often for bring us here. Aside from Heaven, there's no place I'd rather be! :) Blessings, J. S.

  4. Oh my goodness! The research! And ALLLLLL we encounter—most of which never makes it to the story, and half of what does gets cut. But it provides the foundation of knowledge for us to write from. I'm a complete and total pantser with only the direction my story needs to go, so when my first one was set in western New York State, I was never more thankful for Google maps as I've never been there! In my third novel, that releases this month by the way, there is a massive extended family reunion and I created every member of that massive extended family. Only a handful of that massive extended family appears in the story but I have to know who's who, and who is related to who, and when birthdays are and..... in order to write ... as if I know them... because I DO know them!!!

  5. I've only written one book, a devotional I co-wrote with author MaryLu Tyndall. It was 'literally' a pain at times because my back went out (from lifting a grandchild) and I was laid up in bed. Made for some great realistic motivation.

  6. Ron, a great story. God bless our spouses. The poor things. For better or worse.

    Ane, you understand, I can tell.

    J.S. That's been quite an interesting journey. I've visited the Pennsylvania area and toured Amish places around Lancaster. Fascinating and beautiful. Felt like strolling back in time.

    Robin, you're a brave lady. I lose track if I have more than 4-5 made-up people to keep track of.

    Debbie, I've written a devotional also, forged through some of the toughest chapters of my life. Glad to be able to use that word "through" now to describe it.


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