Book Giveaway and a Personality Quiz!

There are many things I love about my job, but near the top of the list is helping readers find a brand-new author. That’s why I’m excited that Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes entered the bookish world this month.

First Lines: “One minute a guy is splitting wood in the northeastern corner of the country, stomach rumbling and heart afire with ambition in the wake of his eighteenth birthday, and the next minute he’s pumping water from the old kitchen sink to clean the work off his hands and pick up a letter from the president of the United States of America himself. It lies there on the red, paint-chipped kitchen table, like an old friend who has let himself in and put his feet up, the most natural thing in the world. But it’s anything but natural.”

Plot Summary: In the wake of WWII, a grieving fisherman submits a poem to a local newspaper: a rallying cry for hope, purpose . . . and rocks. Its message? Send me a rock for the person you lost, and I will build something life-giving. When the poem spreads farther than he ever intended, Robert Bliss’s humble words change the tide of a nation. Boxes of rocks inundate the harbor village on the coast of Maine, and he sets his callused hands to work.

Decades later, Annie Bliss is summoned back to Ansel-by-the-Sea when GrandBob, the man who gave her refuge during the hardest summer of her youth, is the one in need of help. But what greets her is a mystery: a wall of heavy boxes hiding in his home. Memories of stone ruins on a nearby island ignite a fire in her anthropologist soul to uncover answers.

Together with the handsome and enigmatic town postman, Annie uncovers the story layer by layer, yearning to resurrect the hope GrandBob once held so dear and to know the truth behind the chasm in her family’s past. But mending what has been broken for so long may require more of her and those she loves than they are prepared to give.

To celebrate this debut novel’s release, we’re having some fun on the blog. First, take the personality quiz below that tells you which location in the charming town of Ansel-by-the-Sea best fits your personality.

Then, comment on this post with the location result you got from the quiz, and you’ll be entered in a drawing to win a copy of Whose Waves These Are! I’ll choose three winners by May 27, 2019. Have fun!

Bethany House Reading Road Trip 2019

Time for your guide for planning a summer road trip. First stop: a bookstore or library! If you’ve ever wanted to travel but didn’t quite have the budget to get to all the locations you’d like, you can explore new places through the pages of some of our books. To make it easy for you, we’ve listed all the settings for Bethany House novels published from July 2018 to June 2019 below.

Need more suggestions, or want to find a specific state not listed here? Check out our archives from 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015. Enjoy, readers!

Alaska: Under the Midnight Sun by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse

California: In Dreams Forgotten and In Times Gone By by Tracie Peterson

Florida: A Simple Singing by Leslie Gould (also set in Pennsylvania), The Lady of Tarpon Springs by Judith Miller

Georgia: Breach of Trust by Rachel Dylan

Illinois: Caught by Surprise by Jen Turano (also set in New York), Legacy of Mercy by Lynn Austin, Searching for You by Jody Hedlund

Maine: Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes

Maryland: Dead Drift by Dani Pettrey

Minnesota: A Season of Grace by Lauraine Snelling

Missouri: Mind Games by Nancy Mehl

Montana: When You Are Near and Wherever You Go by Tracie Peterson

Nevada: The Reluctant Warrior and The Unexpected Champion by Mary Connealy

New York: A Desperate Hope by Elizabeth Camden

Oklahoma: The Lieutenant’s Bargain by Regina Jennings

Pennsylvania: The First Love and The Tinderbox by Beverly Lewis, Flights of Fancy by Jen Turano, A Faithful Gathering by Leslie Gould

Texas: More Than Words Can Say by Karen Witemeyer

Washington: Sweet on You by Becky Wade

Wisconsin: The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond and The Curse of Misty Wayfair by Jaime Jo Wright

Bonus! Novella Collections (aka Multi-Stop Trips)

Since these were all set in different locations, we thought we’d break down all of them for you.

England, Texas, West Virginia, Washington: The Christmas Heirloom by Karen Witemeyer, Kristi Ann Hunter, Sarah Loudin Thomas, and Becky Wade

Illinois, Maryland, and South Carolina: The Cost of Betrayal by Dee Henderson, Dani Pettrey, Lynette Eason

Outside the United States

Canada: The Best of Intentions and The Highest of Hopes by Susan Anne Mason, Between Two Shores by Jocelyn Green, A Reluctant Bride by Jody Hedlund

England: An Hour Unspent and The Number of Love by Roseanna White, The Bride of Ivy Green by Julie Klassen, A Return of Devotion by Kristi Ann Hunter, The Artful Match by Jennifer Delamere

France: Far Side of the Sea by Kate Breslin (also set in Spain)

Gambia: Outbreak by Davis Bunn (also set in other countries in West Africa)

Israel: Jerusalem’s Queen by Angela Hunt

Nevis: Verity by Lisa Bergren

Russia: Thirst of Steel by Ronie Kendig (also set in Ukraine, France, Republic of the Congo, and more)

Sicily: Shelter of the Most High by Connilyn Cossette (also set in ancient Canaan)

Other Realms

Because the only way you can get to these fantastic settings is through the pages of a book.

Mark of the Raven and Flight of the Raven by Morgan Busse

What’s one place you’ve only “visited” through the pages of a book but feel you know well?

How I Became a Fantasy Writer

Almost every writer I’ve met said they wanted to be a writer since they were young. At age six, I wanted to be a unicorn. A beautiful, magical unicorn. That should tell you where my life was heading from an early start.

My earliest book memories were my mother reading to us the children’s version of Pilgrim’s Progress and The Chronicles of Narnia. In fact, I couldn’t wait until the next night to find out what happened to the Pevensie siblings, so I found my mother’s copy and hid in a corner and finished it that afternoon.

As the years went by, I added more fantasy to my collection, starting with The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. My father was a fantasy nerd before it was cool and introduced me to even more stories: Dune, Conan, A Princess of Mars, and many others. When I wasn’t reading, I was imagining. So it’s no surprise that eventually I started writing my own stories.

In 2004, shortly after the birth of my daughter, I needed a creative outlet. My husband always said I should be a writer. I usually turned him down. I was a reader, not a writer. But then I had this idea and I couldn’t escape it. I started writing about this woman who could see inside people’s souls with a touch of her hand. Using the fantasy genre, I explored what it would be like if we could see people the way God sees people: both the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Years later, that story became my first published book: Daughter of Light. Since then, I’ve continued to write in the speculative genre. I always thought the Frankenstein story was a great story about how we should be careful of what we invent, and how the monster wanted to be loved. So I wrote a similar story about a young woman who—because of science—is turning into a monster from the inside out using a unique genre called steampunk (steampunk is a story set in a Victorian or Wild West era with a high level of technology ran on steam). A year later, Tainted came out, which won the Realm Award for best steampunk and Awakened, the following book, won the Carol Award for best Christian speculative.

It took years for me to embrace the fact that I love fantasy, and that there is nothing wrong with that genre. In fact, the next generation is desperately looking for something beyond our world. Just look at the books and movies young people read and watch. And what better way to introduce them to God (who is the most fantastical!), than with stories set in amazing worlds, filled with flawed and searching people, who find light and hope.

Along with writing fantasy, I attend an amazing conference every year for writers of faith who write specifically in the fantasy and science fiction genres, Realm Makers. It’s probably the only writing conference where you will find people walking around in geeky shirts, debating the eating habits of dragons, and dressing up as their favorite characters for the awards banquet. I have a steampunk outfit I wear especially for the occasion. It’s one of the highlights of my year!

Looking back, I never did become a unicorn. Instead, I became a fantasy writer. Which is almost the same thing. Then again, those silver hairs I see starting to peek out at the top of my head could be an indication that my dream just might be coming true.

 

Thanks so much for sharing your story with us, Morgan! Readers, you can check out the first chapter of Mark of the Raven, or visit Morgan’s website for more about her and her books. What is a favorite character from a fantasy novel you’ve read?

Prayer for Authors: May 2019

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 thankful for all of the readers who show their support for our authors in the way that matters most: by praying for them. To read more about the reasons behind this time of prayer, go to this post.

Prayer

Authors with Books Releasing in May:

Morgan Busse
Amanda Dykes
Becky Wade

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.

“To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”—Colossians 1:27-28 (ESV)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For perseverance in personal and writing tasks that might be monotonous.
  • For first-time readers of these authors to discover spiritual truths in the books.
  • For grace-filled conversations between authors and readers that are mutually encouraging.

I really appreciate these monthly times of prayer. What a joy it is to know that readers are praying for our authors and their books! Thanks so much for joining us.

May 2019 New Releases

Take a look at these lovely new releases for May! We here at Bethany House are so excited for you to read the stories of Britt, Annie, and Selene for the first time, each with their own unique personalities and dreams and struggles. (There have to be struggles, of course…otherwise there wouldn’t be a story!) Click on each cover to read a first chapter…and enjoy!

Sweet on You by Becky Wade

Bradford Sisters #3

Plot Summary: Britt and Zander have been best friends since they met thirteen years ago, but unbeknownst to Britt, Zander has been in love with her for just as long. When Zander’s uncle dies of mysterious causes, he returns to Washington to investigate. As they work together to uncover his uncle’s tangled past, will the truth of what lies between them also come to light?

 

Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes

Plot Summary: In the wake of WWII, a grieving fisherman submits a poem to a local newspaper asking readers to send rocks in honor of loved ones to create something life-giving—but the building halts when tragedy strikes. Decades later, Annie returns to the coastal Maine town where stone ruins spark her curiosity, and her search for answers faces a battle against time.

 

Flight of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse

The Ravenwood Saga #2

Plot Summary: Exiled and on the run, Selene Ravenwood is in search of the real reason her family was given the gift of dreamwalking…but first she must adapt to her marriage with the man she was originally assigned to kill. With war impending and a dark being after her gift, she finds herself at a crossroads—but time is running out and soon her choice will be made for her.

 

So, readers, which of the water-themed backgrounds on these books is your personal favorite? (There’s at least one thing all of these books have in common, besides great stories, of course!)

 

Six Organization Systems for Bookshelves

It’s time for spring cleaning again, and in addition to monotonous tasks like dusting the ceiling fan or exploring for moldy lumps in the back of the fridge, many households like to take these next few weeks to get organized…and for readers, that includes their bookshelves, stuffed with old favorites and to-be-read volumes alike.

Want to join in, but need some options for what your shelves could look like? We’ve got you covered. Here are the top ways we’ve seen shelves put in order.

The Color Spectrum

Description: In a display worthy of an art museum, these shelves are laid out in rainbow order, with books within one color usually subdivided by shade.

Bonus points if: you call those colors names like “blushing rose” or “pale aquamarine” instead of “pink” and “blue.”

Preferred by: Instagrammers, the artsy crowd, people who think normal bookshelves don’t look pretty enough to take up a full wall.

Downsides: Better memorize the spine color of your entire personal library so you can find titles when needed. Also, what do you do with brown, white, and black books? Put them at the end? Put prettier book cozies/jackets over them so they don’t mess with the color scheme? Burn them?

The Dewey Decimal

Description: A topical organization where books on a similar subject are grouped together. Classic novels here, biographies there, books with an angsty YA protagonist who just can’t choose between two drop-dead-gorgeous guys who are madly in love with her on the middle shelf, etc.

Bonus points if: You actually use the ordering numbers of the Dewey Decimal system to order your categories.

Preferred by: Lovers of nonfiction or those who have niche interests, organized people who can’t quite commit to alphabetical order because it seems like too much work.

Downsides: There’s the issue of what to do with the lonely books that don’t fit into any category…and how to describe a book’s location to anyone but yourself.

The Alphabetical Association

Description: Ordered by author’s last name (or, more uniquely, by title). No exceptions.

Bonus points if: you can order everything without once humming the “ABC Song” under your breath.

Preferred by: The ultra-organized crowd, people who want everything in its proper place.

Downsides: If you follow this too strictly, you’ll put series out of order, and you actually have to remember who wrote each book to find it. Much like a spice drawer, though, the more use a bookshelf gets, the harder it is to maintain this system.

The Staged Array

Description: This is a carefully curated collection of tomes, fiction and nonfiction, designed to be impressive to guests in your home. Have you read all (or any) of the books? Not necessarily. It’s all about appearances. Overachievers can switch out certain books based on the interests or political/theological makeup of the crowd coming over.

Bonus points if: you have a multi-volume leather-bound set of something that actually looks like you’ve read it.

Preferred by: Front-room bookshelf owners, people who never did the assigned reading in high school but still wrote solid essays anyway.

Downsides: Someone who loves one of your display books might try to engage you in a detailed conversation, blowing your cover. Beware! At least have some profound quotes underlined so you can refer to them in a pinch.

The Kid-Proof Structure

Description: If it can be chewed, it goes on the bottom shelves. Chapter books round out the middle, and if it needs to be preserved for any length of time, put it at least three feet about the head of the tallest child. Any valuable/rare/sentimental books go in a fire-and-drool-proof safe until the kids are off to college.

Bonus points if: the board books are arranged in order of raggedness.

Preferred by: Parents who want their kids to love books, but not love to destroy books. (It’s a fine line.)

Downsides: Easy access to books you’ve had to read aloud hundreds of times, possibly forgetting about beloved favorite books stored way up on the highest shelf.

The Haphazard Free Spirit

Description: Order? Who needs it? Books are arranged however they best fit, with most recently-read books usually occupying the outside layers or most accessible shelves. Sometimes series are together, sometimes the series might be in three places, including behind the TV console. On a good day, all the spines are facing out, but we can’t make any promises.

Bonus points if: you regularly tell people to “just explore” when they can’t find the title they’re looking for.

Preferred by: Me, and also people who, like me, find the restrictions of organization too confining to our creativity (or who are too lazy to keep a set order maintained).

Downsides: Why, none at all, of course! Things like disorganized books jammed in every nook and cranny and giant stacks that could crush you at any moment just add to the adventure of reading. Right?

So, readers, tell us: how do you organize your books? One of these methods, or another one entirely?

Ask BHP: Is It Hard Not to Over-Analyze Books?

Our Ask BHP question this week dips into the personal reading habits of Bethany House staff: “As a publishing employee, can you turn off the analytical side of your brain when reading for fun, or are you always critiquing the story in your head?”

As someone who works in our marketing department, the main time I’m reading in Analysis Mode is when I’m reviewing a manuscript that we’ll be considering at our Publication Board, where representatives from marketing, editorial, sales, and rights discuss potential contracts with authors. For new fiction authors, we usually get the full manuscript weeks ahead of time, giving me a chance to read it so I can come prepared to discuss its strengths and weaknesses. Here are some of the questions I ask myself as I do so:

  • Does this seem to be a good match for our target audience? (Interests, spiritual/theological background, etc.)
  • Is this different enough to stand out without being so unique that it won’t appeal to readers?
  • How would this fit with other books we’re publishing?
  • Are the characters well-developed?
  • Is the middle of the story interesting enough to carry readers through?
  • After I read the first three chapters, what, if anything, makes me want to read more?

When I’m reading a book for fun outside of work, I obviously don’t feel the same kind of responsibility to go through a checklist like that. It helps that I also read in several genres outside of the Christian fiction I immerse myself in at work (nonfiction of all sorts, ABA mysteries and fantasy, middle grade fiction, literary classics…let’s be honest, basically anything with pages).

This might also be a chicken-egg conundrum: I’ve spoken with several editors who said they went into editing because they already had a natural bent toward analyzing and critiquing a story’s structure, characters, and plot. Working in publishing probably strengthened those skills, but it didn’t create them in the first place.

I think most of us would say that while we can’t exactly “turn off” the part of our brain trained by working in publishing—deciding if the cover makes the genre clear, admiring the author’s voice, predicting what might happen next—the better a book is, the easier it gets to set the technical questions aside and just enjoy reading. After all, if I’m not making a marketing plan for the author or evaluating the manuscript for our publication board, I don’t really need to be thinking about all of those things. All I really have to decide is whether I like it or not.

I probably am somewhat more critical, or at least aware, of the choices the author is making because I’ve spent the past five years in publishing, but “off the clock,” I’m a reader just like any other.

Then again, all readers are on some level, asking questions like “Does this opening chapter grab me?” “Is the plot too predictable?” and “Do I care about these characters, or do I kind of hope they fail because they’re so annoying?” Maybe you wouldn’t actually describe your reading process that way, but we’re all analyzing the story at some level. Hopefully not to the point where we can enjoy ourselves or get lost in a great story, but in a way that helps us appreciate what we love about our favorite authors.

Your turn, readers! What is it about a good book that makes it easy for you to turn off your analytical side and just enjoy the story?

The Secret Life of Bookstagrammers

There’s a hidden world out there, full of perfectly draped scarves, shelves organized by color, and cabinets filled with candles that would put Bath and Body Works to shame. Welcome to Instagram, where readers love to share their favorite new and old reads in a fun, visual way.

Since we work at Bethany House Publishers, we have #AllTheBooks, so that’s not a problem—but let’s face it, it’s the extras added to the photos that catch your eye. When we decided to get into this social media outlet, we decided there were two different strategies for doing well in the bookstagram world.

Option One: Keep a massive collection of random pretty things to put in pictures, including, but certainly not limited to:

  • Old-fashioned props like a quill pen, vintage postcards, typewriter keys, an entire Gutenberg printing press, etc.
  • Letter boards. Also infinite patience for how long it takes to write anything using letterboards.
  • Surfaces of every conceivable material (marble, tile, actual redwood tree planks, anything that looks like Joanna Gaines might have touched it).
  • Charming book-themed items: Alice in Wonderland tea, Jane Austen action figure, Edgar Allan Poe-ka dot socks, Hobbit-themed candles…none of these are made up.
  • Blankets. So many blankets.

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Or you could try Option Two: Be creative.

This is what we went with. At Bethany House, we mostly use what we have on hand for our photos. Some props are ones ordinary readers might not have access to (Regency costumes, galleys, our amazing rolling bookshelf ladder like the one in Beauty and the Beast), but other times you’ll see everyday items you probably have around (a cup of tea, playing cards, shattered glass from a broken lamp, potted plants).

It is also entirely possible that we have gone into a home decor store to take pictures there, giving ourselves access to dozens of new props and background surfaces. But if you ask us about it directly, we will deny everything.

Some bookstagrammers will keep a standard background like their bookshelf or wood background and just change out a few props. That will give your feed a consistent look and won’t require an art degree to arrange a new layout every time. Of course, if fancy is your thing, go for it!

That’s all well and good for a publisher, you might be thinking, but why should I bookstagram?

  • You can get great book recommendations. We know, we know, your TBR pile is long enough. But when you see a particularly eye-catching picture and compelling review caption, it can lead to your next favorite author. Plus, the community reads so broadly that you’ll probably hear about genres you might not have discovered otherwise.
  • It’s a fantastic way to support authors. A simple share or comment can be a great way to keep the cover and title in your book-buying friends’ minds, and a pretty picture that gets a huge amount of interaction might bring in lots of new readers.
  • “It’s for Instagram” is the perfect one-size-fits all excuse for all kinds of strange behaviors, from wandering around the woods with a sword to hunkering underneath a tablecloth in the mailroom with all the lights off to climbing on top of unsteady surfaces to capture a photo. Not that we’re speaking from personal experience. Of course not.

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If we’ve convinced you and you’re interested in using Instagram to share about your favorite reads, here are a few tips:

  • Set up your account as “public” if you’re wanting to promote books—you use a private account for sharing what you’re reading with friends and family, but it will be hard to interact with the bookstagram community.
  • Post photos of your current reads, your TBR stacks, and the fun environments where you’re reading your book! (For photo ideas, check out publishers’ and authors’ tagged photos to see what their readers are doing.)
  • Make sure you are posting clear photos using natural light or other good lighting.
  • Use hashtags like #Bookstagram, #BookLove, #BooksOfInstagram, and others to connect with other readers.
  • Check to see if the author and/or publisher has an Instagram account. If so, follow them and tag away!
  • Once you get started, try participating in a #BookstagramChallenge. It will ask you to post pictures on set days to a particular prompt along with other readers and is a great way to make connections.

Also, be sure to follow us at @bethanyhousefiction to keep an eye on our new releases, enter book giveaways, participate in bookstagram challenges, and get a behind the scenes look at our world.

How about you, readers? Anything you like to put on Instagram to show off your favorite books?

Prayer for Authors: April 2019

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 thankful for all of the readers who show their support for our authors in the way that matters most: by praying for them. To read more about the reasons behind this time of prayer, go to this post.

Prayer

Authors with Books Releasing in April:

Lisa Bergren
Davis Bunn
Jennifer Delamere
Beverly Lewis

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.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without pretense. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace.”—James 3:17-18 (CSB)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For efficiency with tasks or parts of the writing/publishing process that they enjoy less.
  • For readers who wouldn’t normally read faith-based fiction to pick up one of these books.
  • For upcoming writing projects at whatever stage they might be in.

I really appreciate these monthly times of prayer. What a joy it is to know that readers are praying for our authors and their books! Thanks so much for joining us.

April 2019 New Releases

These new releases from Bethany House this month will transport you to new times and places, from Lancaster County to the West Indies, from London to the coast of Africa. Adventure, romance, and secrets abound…just click on any of the covers to start the story by reading an excerpt.

The Tinderbox by Beverly Lewis

Plot Summary: When Sylvia Miller finds her father’s old tinderbox left unlocked, her curiosity is piqued. She opens the box and uncovers secrets best left alone. A confrontation with her father leads to a shocking revelation that will forever change not only her own life but also that of her family and her Amish community.

Verity by Lisa Bergren

Plot Summary: Englishwoman Verity Banning decides to start a business importing horses and other goods the residents of the West Indies need. This trade brings her to New York, where she meets revolutionary Ian McKintrick. As a friend to many Loyalists, Verity has always favored a peaceful resolution. But when a Patriot lays claim to her heart, she’ll have to decide for what—and whom—she will fight.

The Artful Match by Jennifer Delamere

Plot Summary: At loose ends in 1881, Cara Bernay befriends a carefree artist, the brother of the handsome but infuriating Henry Burke, the Earl of Morestowe. Recognizing the positive influence she has on his brother, Henry invites her to accompany them back to their estate. When secrets on both sides come out, Cara devises a bold plan with consequences for her heart.

Outbreak by Davis Bunn

Plot Summary: Along the coast of West Africa, strange algae is growing and mysterious deaths are rising—until suddenly, with the sea currents’ shift, the deaths stop. Professor Theo Bishop and biological researcher Avery Madison are the only ones who know the truth. Will the authorities heed their warning before it happens again?

What is a book you’re excited about this spring, whether it’s one of these books or another title?