Once upon a time, I wrote a book…and readers begged to know what happened next. But that’s not the only reason I wrote A Picture Perfect Christmas.

Let’s start at the beginning: The Wardrobe series started with Dani’s search for family in Dance Over Me and I quickly knew that both Liz and Gloria would have their own stories to tell. I thoroughly enjoyed introducing Liz to Ryan in Focus On Love, but especially wanted to show readers the difference between religion’s list of rules and a true relationship based on love. In order to make that contrast tangible, I used her own father as the “villain” to also create a craving for the love of the Heavenly Father. I planted the seeds for a potential reconciliation down the road, but didn’t follow-through because my, um, focus was on Liz and her relationships with both God and Ryan.

Like most authors waiting for one book to finally make it through production to publication, I started working on the next book, Sing a New Song. (Yes, that’s a link to a page on my website if you really want to read the blurb, but as of this writing we’re still proofing the interior layout and it’ll be months before we have an official cover and live ordering link.) By the time Focus On Love finally released in February 2018, I was in the middle of my personal edits of that completed story and feeling quite proud of myself for how the series was turning out.

Then came the reader reactions. Loved it. So sweet. Beautiful writing with a powerful message. Can’t wait to read the next book and find out what happened with Liz’s parents…

Uh-oh. My heart sank because Gloria’s story was about…Gloria. And it was already finished. And even if there was a way to naturally give an update about Liz, it certainly wouldn’t make sense for Gloria to care about how a potential reconciliation came about between Liz and her parents…especially not in the level of detail readers would want in order to feel satisfied.

So, it seemed I’d need to write another book in the series to answer those questions for readers. Okay. I could figure out something. But there was this not-so-small issue of timing. Sing a New Song was under contract to release in May 2019 and readers would have to wait even longer for the book after that in order to get their answers. Assuming they weren’t mad enough that they gave up on my stories. Or that the wait was so long they forgot who Liz and Ryan were. Or who I was!

If only I could release books a little faster.

With these questions stewing in the back of my mind, I took a step back and thought about my writing from a business perspective. The time had come to become a hybrid author with both traditionally and independently published books so I could “feed” my readers regularly and maintain my marketing momentum between releases. I even had an old award-winning manuscript that I could dust off, update, and release to fill that publication gap.

Now that I had an idea of where to start, I took some time to catch-up on other writing-related classes and posts I’d saved in order to arm myself from a business perspective. So, back in May, I hit replay on a peptalk from the My Book Therapy gals about writing Christmas stories as a way to build your brand and generate seasonal income.

Like a recipe, a Christmas story needed a “Scrooge” character, love, a Christmas miracle, and plenty of seasonal elements like music, snow, decorations, gifts, trees, and lights. I’d gotten married just a few days before Christmas almost 23 years ago, so I knew all about using the natural festivities of the season to heighten the romance of a wedding.

Wait a minute. I already had a Scrooge character in Liz’s dad. Liz and Ryan had gotten engaged in March, so it would make sense for them to be planning a wedding for the fall. What if I made it a Christmas date instead? Then my miracle element could be whatever it took to get her parents to the wedding. And I’d have a story to answer readers’ cravings while keeping them in touch with The Wardrobe series while waiting for Gloria’s story in the spring.

The ideas swirled and then began to gel into a cohesive plot. But how to catch readers up as we jumped time from March to the Christmas season? Right. I’d already set up that possibility in Focus On Love when Ryan mentioned he might write a letter to Liz’s mom. Picking up a pen, I scribbled these words:

Postmarked March 12

Dear Mrs. Foster,

I hope this letter finds you well and in a receptive-enough mood to allow me to introduce myself. My name is Ryan Callahan, and I’m in love with your daughter. 

While I’m completely aware of your husband’s decision and actions to disown her, I serve a God who is more than able to change hearts. He is the same God who brought Liz into my life and opened the doors for us to work together on assignment for Bricker Communications Group. In fact, by the time you read this, we’ll be in Fiji, where we will spend several weeks photographing the landscape, culture, and people as part of a book project, before moving on to another island in the South Pacific.

Because of God’s great love, I’m holding out hope that someday your family may be reunited. This is especially important since I have asked Liz to marry me. Which brings me back to my introduction, in hopes that you can get to know me a little and trust me to take care of your daughter.

I’ll start at the beginning. I was born and raised in Montana…

But just because I had a great idea, didn’t mean it would work out quite so perfectly. Stay tuned next week as I share behind the scenes of my first independently published novella.

P. S. A Picture Perfect Christmas releases in two weeks but you can pre-order your copy now!

A Picture Perfect Christmas: The Inspiration

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