Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Blog Tour: The Christmas Dog (Review & Interview)

It may seem strange, but a dirty, hungry stray dog named Ralph, is the central character in Melody Carlson’s newest Christmas novella, The Christmas Dog.

But in reality, Ralph, like many people - especially the human characters in the novel, are simply looking for someone to love.

Carlson drew her inspiration for Ralph, from a “scruffy little mutt” named Prince, that found his way into her family’s life.

“Many years ago, when our boys were preschool age, we were asked to doggy-sit by an international college student we’d befriended,” Carlson said. “She said it would only be for a week, but we ended up with that dog for 16 years.

“Although he looked nothing like a ‘prince’ he turned out to be A Prince Among Dogs (and actually has a book named after him). My fictional Ralph, like our little Prince, managed to bring various people together in ways that only a dog could pull off.”

In The Christmas Dog, Carlson explores the relationship between Betty Kowalski, her granddaughter, Avery, and Betty's newest neighbor (and Carlson's favorite character) Jack.

“Without giving away the story, I’ll say that Betty really had a problem with Jack,” Carlson explained. “From her perspective he was an obnoxious nuisance and just one more reason she’d had it with her old neighborhood. Not only that, but Jack made it extremely challenging for a ‘good Christian woman’ like Betty to ‘love her neighbor.’

“It didn’t help that it was Christmas and instead of being filled with good will toward men, Betty found herself wishing her neighbor Jack (and his trashy backyard) would just vanish from the face of the planet.”

Carlson said she hopes people find grace tucked inside not only The Christmas Dog , but all of her books.

“I think fiction is great way to teach about compassion, empathy and forgiveness,” she said. “So often we make snap judgments about people, dismissing them without getting to know them.

“But if we could only see a bit beneath the surface, or if we knew a little about someone’s past or their personal challenges, we might understand what makes them like that…and we might treat them differently. Stories are a great way to remind us of this.”

Writing Christmas Novellas
Carlson said she began writing Christmas stories by accident.

“A number of years ago, I wrote a novella called Angels in the Snow,” she said. “I had such a good time with it, I wrote another…and another. I think I’ve written about seven now.

“There’s something about a Christmas story that invites ‘magic,’ creativity and the unexpected. Because I never outline, writing is an exploratory journey for me, but it’s especially so with a Christmas tale.”
Carlson said she looks forward to writing her Christmas novels.

“Ironically I end up writing my Christmas stories right in the middle of summer—it might be close to 100 degrees outside and yet I’m writing about snow falling, hot chocolate and jingle bells,” she said. “Fortunately my air conditioned writing studio looks out over a pine forest, but I’m often caught by surprise once I step out the door.”

What’s Next
Carlson’s next project is a stand-alone teen novel, who’s main character has something in common with Ralph.

She has also completed her next Christmas novella, Christmas at Harrington’s.

“It might actually be my favorite one so far,” she said. “It has some very fun twists and turns. As usual, I start the main character out with some major challenges—much more so than usual in this story—and yet by the time the tale ends, well, I guess I can’t tell you what happens. I’ll just say that I had a good time with that book.”

What I Thought
The Christmas Dog wasn't exactly what I expected. When it arrived, I thought, oh, a sweet book about a Christmas dog.

What I found, though, was probably better than my inital expectations. In 172 pages, Carson has crafted a story that delves below the "glitz" of Christmas and helps readers examine the importance of relationships - between neighbors and family members, and the importance of community.

She also delves into how "first" impressions are not always the most accurate impression, and how a group of people can jump to the wrong conclusions when they don't attempt to really get to know someone.

Reading this book is like eating a sweet and savory treat. The "sweet" moments will make you smile, while the "savory" times will leave you pondering the complexity found within the small novel.

Overall, it's a good, quick read. If you are looking for a "stocking-stuffer" book for a reader in your life, you might consider this novella.

More About The Book
In The Christmas Dog, Betty Kowalski is not looking forward to Christmas at all. Disgruntled over her neighbor’s home “improvements” which involve an old pink toilet parked in his yard, Betty is sadly lacking in the good cheer department.

When a scruffy mutt keeps coming to her door, Betty gets fed up. Add to this a runaway granddaughter, and Betty feels like she’s up to her ears in troubles. But sometimes it’s the difficulties that bring the biggest rewards. I hope you’ll enjoy this story and be reminded of what matters most this Christmas. Happy Holidays!

More About Melody Carlson
Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books, several of them Christmas novellas from Revell, including her much-loved and bestselling book, The Christmas Bus. She also writes many teen books, including Just Another Girl, Anything but Normal, the Diary of a Teenage Girl series, the TrueColors series, and the Carter House Girls series. Melody was nominated for a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her books, including the Notes from a Spinning Planet series and Finding Alice, which is in production as a Lifetime Television movie. She and her husband serve on the Young Life adult committee in central Oregon. Visit Melody's website at

Read an Excerpt On-Line
The Christmas Dog

Download a PDF Excerpt: Click here!

Purchase the Book at Amazon

Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

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