Four Ways to Make Your Short Story Better

If you’re a writer, I wanted to let you know about an exciting short story contest sponsored by Family Fiction. You can read all about it here…and then come back for some tips on writing that short story!

If you’re a reader and not the writing type, good news! You get to read and vote on your favorite stories for the “People’s Choice” award! Go here to vote, although new stories will be added as they are approved, so check back! Also, you should share this post with a friend who you’d love to see enter!

Contest

Now, for some tips for those people thinking about entering: advice from some of your favorite writers (and two contest judges!). Continue reading

Tracie Peterson’s 100th Book Party: Winners and Excerpt

It’s the last day of the week-long party, everyone! Thanks so much for joining us for some Texas fun with A Sensible Arrangement, Tracie’s 100th book! (If you missed a day, take a look at the blog archives. I especially enjoyed seeing the quiz results–I was Marty, by the way.)

Tracie Party!

First of all, our winners from yesterday’s post. The three winners of A Sensible Arrangement are: Sharon Timmer, Carrie Thomas, and Betty Wendland. And our grand prize winner, who will receive A Sensible Arrangement and all three books in the LAND OF THE LONE STAR series is: Donna Harmon. Winners, please email me, Amy Green, at agreen@bethanyhouse.com with your mailing address, and I’ll get those books sent your way. Thanks for entering, everyone! (I personally agreed with the folks who said they’d miss indoor plumbing the most if they lived in pioneer days!)

For those of you disappointed that you didn’t win, I have good news for you: you can still read the first three chapters right here:

Tracie Peterson’s 100th Book Party: Giveaway!

And now, the moment every reader has been waiting for: free books! (This might be the only crowd I know who would get more excited about that than the chocolate cake recipe.)

In honor of Tracie Peterson’s 100th book, A Sensible Arrangement, we’re hosting a giveaway on the Bethany House blog. Five winners will win A Sensible Arrangement, and one grand prize winner will win A Sensible Arrangement plus the LAND OF THE LONE STAR series!

Tracie Party!

Here’s how to enter:

  • Share either this post or one of the other three Book Party posts (the virtual card, recipe, or quiz) on Facebook or Twitter.
  • Comment with an answer to the following question to show that you did the first two things on the list: “If you lived in the late 1800s, what convenience or aspect of modern life would you miss most?”

You must do all of the above by noon CST on Friday, April 11th. Winners, chosen randomly from the comments, will be chosen and listed in our last Blog Party post on Friday, April 11th at 2 PM CST.

Thanks for joining in the fun, everyone!

 

Tracie Peterson’s 100th Book Party: Quiz!

Have you seen those personality quizzes that are shared all over Facebook? Well, here is the Christian fiction version, part of the celebration of Tracie Peterson’s 100th book, A Sensible Arrangement!

Tracie Party!

Of course, we couldn’t include all of Tracie Peterson’s characters. With 100 books, it would just be ridiculous. You’d be taking the quiz for hours! (If you’ve missed the other fun things we’ve been doing this week to celebrate Tracie’s 100th book, check out the virtual card and fun recipes.)

This quiz covers the heroine of A Sensible Arrangement, as well as the leading ladies in the two other series this book has connections with: STRIKING A MATCH and LAND OF THE LONE STAR.

Find out if you are….

ChasingtheSun_4color.indd

Hannah from Chasing the Sun?

TouchingtheSky_mockup.indd

Laura from Touching the Sky?

TamingtheWind_TP-cover.indd

Carissa from Taming the Wind?

EmbersOfLove_4color.indd

Deborah from the STRIKING A MATCH series?

A Sensible Arrangement

Marty from A Sensible Arrangement?

Moment in Time

Alice from A Moment in Time? (And A Sensible Arrangement)

Take the quiz to find out!

TakeQuiz

Just for fun, tell us which result you got in the comments section of the blog. I’d love to see how many fictional heroines we have out there!

Tracie Peterson’s 100th Book Party: Lone Star Fun

Welcome to Day Two of the week-long virtual party for Tracie Peterson’s 100th book, A Sensible Arrangement! I loved reading all of your comments and congratulations for Tracie on yesterday’s blog post!

Tracie Party!

Today it’s time for a little fun from Texas (a state I just visited for the first time last week on Beverly Lewis’s book tour…still going on! Check it out if you live in Texas or Louisiana). Since the series is called LONE STAR BRIDES, it’s pretty obvious that the great state of Texas is pretty special to our heroes Marty and Jake.

Take a Virtual Tour of the Lone Star State!

Bluebonnets

Scroll through 35 breathtaking Texas photos submitted by state residents like the one above. I could hardly pick a favorite!

Or, if you’re actually planning a trip to Texas (or would like to in the future), take a look at this list of places to visit and things to do.

What’s a Party Without Cake?

And, finally, if you have a bit of a sweet tooth, here’s my favorite Texas sheet cake recipe! (This one is perfect for book clubs to use…or anyone who happens to like chocolate. Which, really, is almost everyone.)

Texas sheet cakeTexas Sheet Cake

2 cup sugar
2 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 sticks margarine/butter
4 Tbsp. cocoa
1 c water
½ cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

Place sugar, flour, baking soda, and cinnamon in a bowl and stir them together. In a medium-size saucepan over medium heat, melt together the margarine/butter, cocoa, and water. Bring to a rapid boil, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Pour cocoa mixture over dry ingredients and mix well. Let cool for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400° F. Then add buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla to other ingredients and mix well. Pour the batter into a greased jelly roll pan (15.5” x 10.5” x 1”). Bake for 20 minutes. Let cool before icing.

Icing

1 stick margarine/butter
4 Tbsp. cocoa
6 Tbsp. buttermilk
3 ½ cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla
In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter, cocoa, and buttermilk. Bring to rapid boil, stirring constantly. Then stir in powdered sugar and vanilla Pour on cake while the icing is still hot.

Serves 24

 

Visit the blog tomorrow for a fun surprise: something we’ve never done on the Bethany House fiction blog (or anywhere else for that matter)!

Tracie Peterson’s 100th Book Party!

Some people want to write a novel in their lifetime.

Tracie Peterson has written 100. Already.

This absolutely astounds me, which is one reason why I’m so excited to celebrate Tracie’s milestone on the blog this week. Her 100th book, A Sensible Arrangement, released on the first of April. It’s the start of a new series, Lone Star Brides. And if you’re a regular Tracie reader, you’ll recognize a few familiar faces from past series . . . .

Tracie Party!

About the Book: Marty Dandridge Olson is ready to leave behind the pain of the past. So she answers an advertisement for a “Lone Star Bride,” leaving her Texas ranch and moving to Denver to marry a man she doesn’t know.

Jake Wythe is the man waiting for her. Burned by love, he marries now simply to satisfy the requirements of the bank where he works. Together, Jake and Marty agree they are done with romance and will make this nothing more than a marriage of convenience.

But when their relationship shifts, and dreams and secrets collide, will they come to a different arrangement?

(Learn more about the book here or on Tracie’s website.)

A Sensible Arrangement

Join in the Fun!

Each day, Monday through Friday, we’ll be celebrating the release of A Sensible Arrangement in all sorts of fun ways—come back every day for giveaways, a quiz, recipes, and more, or follow the blog by clicking the “Follow” button to the left. That way, you’ll get email updates about new posts. (On normal, non-party weeks, I post once a week, on Thursdays.)

Today, I’d like to hear back from all of you: pretend this blog post is a giant card for Tracie. What would you write in it? Is there a book of hers that you especially connected with or enjoyed? Tell us about it! (And don’t forget to share this post with all of your friends who love Tracie too . . . we want to celebrate this special accomplishment!)

Prayer for Authors: April 2014

Since it’s the first Sunday of the month, we’ll be continuing the Bethany House Fiction tradition of taking time to pray for authors who have new releases coming out this month. I’m Amy Green, the fiction publicist here, and I’m so glad we have readers who are willing to pray for these wonderful authors. To read more about the reasons behind this time of prayer, go to this post.

11416_AprilFiction_FBcover

Authors with Books Releasing in April:

Tamera Alexander
Kate Breslin
Regina Jennings
Beverly Lewis
Tracie Peterson

Verse of the Month: Feel free to use the text of this verse to guide your prayers for these authors, as well as other people in your life who you want to remember in prayer today.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23, ESV

General Suggestions for Prayer

  • For a sense of peace and purpose, especially when it comes to future writing projects and deadlines.
  • For a clear and organized mind to prioritize the many things that need to be done during release month.
  • For readers to take something they learned from the books and let it make a difference in their lives.

Thank you so much, readers, for taking the time to remember and pray for these wonderful authors. It means a lot to me, and I know it means a lot to them as well.

What’s In a Name?

Sometimes our authors will post questions on Facebook asking fans to help them name a particular character. These are really fun discussions to follow, and they always make me wonder: what’s in a name? Not in the way Shakespeare meant it, but how does the sound and meaning of a name fit a character?

Parents might have many reasons to pass on a name to a newborn—acknowledging a tradition or national heritage, honoring someone special, or simply liking the sound of a name.

Authors, though, know their characters’ personalities before ever naming them, something hard to determine in a hospital with a screaming infant. I decided to take a look at the names of the leading ladies in our April releases and see how they fit the characters.

Name Book

All of the meanings and spiritual connotations were taken from The Name Book. Continue reading

Judging A Book By Its Cover: Summer 2014 Releases

One of the most common questions I see during our Book Banter events is, “How much say does the author have about what the cover looks like?” or “How are covers designed?”

Because of this, every season, I’ll post our upcoming book covers, along with a “sneak peak” inside Bethany House’s cover design process.

This Season’s Topic: Q&A With Our Creative Director!

Paul Higdon, our creative director, and an all-around great guy, answered a few of my questions about the covers for THE DREW FARTHERING MYSTERIES, by Julianna Deering.

Q: What are the challenges of creating an illustrated cover compared to a more traditional cover?

Rules of MurderA: Creating an illustrated cover can be much more challenging than a photographic and/or traditional cover because the latter is usually driven by photography that is already established, or can be more easily manipulated to suit a cover design. That’s not always the case, but pure illustrative covers require more leg work from the get-go because you’re creating imagery from a blank canvas, and that usually means more heavily involved steps. Finding an illustrator who is a good fit is also an unique challenge, and you have to be able to communicate in visual terms with them.
Q: About how much time does it take to design a cover like this?

Death by the BookA: Each cover varies in time and is unique to its story, setting, and list of characters. Death by the Book was a follow-up title to the first book, Rules of Murder. So there was some advantage when designing Death by the Book because we were able to pick up and continue a lot of the styles established on Rules of Murder.

Rules of Murder roughly took 50 hours, give or take, for art direction and design—composition, layout , typography. That included research, team discussions, Illustrator reviews, art direction, thumbnail sketches, type development, character development, image and inspiration research, and revisions/finessing to nail down an approved, final look.

Once the series was established the following titles average around 15-20 hours, give or take, of art direction and design. The actual artwork by John occurs separately from this process and each cover takes approximately 30 hours, using his computer illustration skills.

Q: Which of the three covers in the series do you like best, and why?

Murder at the MikadoA: This is tough. I honestly like all three covers for different reasons. Rules of Murder will always be a favorite, because it established the series look and feel. We were proud of the final results. Jeff, the designer, is also a huge car fan, so to be able to include a vintage car from the early part of last century was fun for him. Murder at the Mikado is also a stand out in my mind because of the layering, and slightly more abstract perspectives. It was also a fun challenge to depict the setting with a night scene. Because of the overall dramatic perspective I would have say that Murder at the Mikado is my favorite, so far.

And, without further ado, I present to you Bethany House’s summer 2014 books! Click on the picture of the book cover to learn more about the story. Continue reading

Internal Conflict: Writers Weigh In

Conflict. It’s what makes readers keep turning pages late into the night, and what helps writers know what to put on the page next. Some conflicts are fairly obvious: blizzards, runaway trains, or moustache-twirling villains are pretty easy to identify as the enemy.

But what happens when your real enemy is . . . you?

That’s what writers call internal conflict, and it can be subtle.

11415_MarchFictionBks_FBcover

As I read this month’s releases from Bethany House, I noticed that all of the main characters had a great story arc involving internal conflict. Yes, things are happening outside of them: a mistaken identity, hostage negotiation, impending murder, and blackmail. But what really drew me into the story were the unique and nuanced issues that each character faced. Here, the authors and I talk about the characters’ internal conflicts.

To

To learn more about Judith and her books, go to judithmccoymiller.com.

Andrea Wilson
From A Shining Light by Judith Miller

Judith’s Take: For several years Andrea Wilson faced the consequences of a bad choice. A choice that destroyed her trust. Now, unexpected events have thrust her into life among the Amana Colonists in Iowa. If she is to ever find the peace, safety, and love she desires, she must learn to trust God as well as the people who have given her shelter. When trust proves more difficult than she anticipated, she must decide if she will rely upon her own understanding or finally trust God.

Amy’s Take: Sometimes communities like Amana are so peaceful that they seem far away from the problems of the outside world. When Andrea brought some of those problems into Amana, I loved watching how the people there loved and protected her. Sometimes trust doesn’t come easily, and I appreciated the realistic way Andrea struggled with that. Continue reading