Vote Books 2020!

Driving around my town yesterday, I had this enlightening thought: what if we had commercials, flyers, and even yard signs…promoting our favorite novels? Wouldn’t that be fun?

From there, of course, I thought of a few “campaign slogans” or platforms for my favorite classics. Two of my coworkers, Brooke and Rachael, also contributed some good ones. Enjoy!

Debate tonight: watch Gandalf and Harry Potter argue about the proper role of magic systems in fantasy novels. (Lucy Pevensie moderates.)

Don’t Reelect Goodnight Moon – It’s time to kick the incumbent out of office and replace it with an actual story. We the people don’t even know what mush is or why kids would want to say goodnight to it. It’s time for bedtime story reform.

If you’re looking for the truest gentleman on the ballot, look no further than Charles Bingley. He is charming without effort, innately good without ulterior motives, and will take care of his people when they fall ill. [Disclaimer voiceover] This slogan not written by Bingley, who would never say such nice things about himself. Vote Bingley.

“If women were allowed to vote, we’d soon see a blessed change.” – Rachel Lynde, endorsing Anne Shirley’s campaign (Good news, Mrs. Lynde! We can now!)

[Unflattering picture of Regency-era man, with voiceover] Edward Rochester has lied to us all. His secrets, crazy ex-wife, and propensity for dressing up as a gypsy to manipulate people mean he’s not the right man for the job. Vote for character. Vote for George Knightley.

[Image of candidate standing on stump] I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees. Don’t vote for another, and save all the leaves.

Love is not all a woman is fit for—we have minds, and talent, ambition. Vote for a clever and natural leader. Vote Jo March.

Elect Shakespeare 2020: Wherefore aren’t thou voting yet?

The election is afoot. Once you eliminate the impossible candidates, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the will of the people. Vote Sherlock Holmes.

Old Yeller. Where the Red Fern Grows. The Giving Tree. These tragedies have marked the current administration of children’s books for decades. We’ve all been caught in the Charlotte’s Web of lies. The Sad Children’s Book Party is against everything we value. Vote yes to Proposition 22: “Let the parent/animal/tree live!”

No wrongdoing shall go unpunished—even the smallest of them. Help decrease crime. Do not forget my name at the polling place. Do not forget me. Vote Javert.

Your turn! Contribute a novel-based slogan, or just tell us which fictional character you’d vote for. (Please, no actual, serious political discussion…this one’s just for bookish fun.)

Ask Bethany House: How About Some Publishing Trivia?

I love the open-endedness of the question I’ll be answering today: “Hmm, maybe…what are some fun facts about publishing that might surprise readers? I don’t even know what I might not know!”

Here are some publishing “fun facts” I gathered from all areas of Bethany House.

“Verso” and “recto” are the formal names for the left and right pages when printing.

Our designers have often used Photoshop to fix small historical inaccuracies in images used for cover, like a model with a tattoo on her wrist in Regency England or some red nail polish in biblical times.

We split the year into just three seasons on our publishing calendar: spring is January through April, summer is May through August, and Fall is September through December. That’s why we sometimes joke that at Bethany House, there isn’t any winter.

Sometimes book sellers and catalog producers want to take photos of the physical books to market them before the book is printed. In order for that to happen, we make a mock-up of the book, which includes printing off the book cover on printer paper, taping it to a different book of a similar size, and some work with an Xacto knife.

At Bethany House, we have a Bell of Triumph in one of our conference rooms that you can ring after any kind of hard-won victory, whether personal or work-related, and record the reason in a notebook next to it.

We have a giant stuffed cat in the office—formerly brought to trade shows when we were publishing the popular Mandie series for kids by Lois Gladys Leppard.

Every year on National Oreo Day (March 6th), we celebrate with a sampling of many varieties of the sandwich cookie and other activities (a bracket, trivia, and, last year, a flowchart personality quiz). It has nothing to do with publishing. We just have two editors, Jeff and Jen, who like Oreos.

Lots of books come in and out of the office doors. On average, Bethany House ships 520 packages every month (not including larger mailings like author copies or influencers, which ship from our warehouse).

Three of the five authors currently in the Christy Hall of Fame are there because of awards won for Bethany House novels: Lynn Austin, Davis Bunn, and Karen Hancock.

How about you, readers? Anything fun or unusual about your line of work that you’d like to share with us?

Prayer for Authors: October 2020

Happy Sunday! 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 Lokkesmoe, 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 October:

Mary Connealy

Nicole Deese

Amanda Dykes

Rachel Dylan

Angela Hunt

Regina Jennings

Susan Anne Mason

Tracie Peterson

Katie Powner

Karen Witemeyer

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.

“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.”—Philippians 4:4-5 (NLT)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For joy to overflow, both in their writing and their personal lives.
  • For bookstore owners struggling financially to be able to keep their doors open.
  • For the books releasing this month to have a lasting impact on readers who need their messages and stories.

Thank you all for taking a few moments to pray with us. It’s so appreciated!

First Line Matching Game

Time for a game, everyone! We have seven (!) new releases from Bethany House this month, so I thought it would be the perfect time to play a round of…Match That First Line!

The rules are simple. I have a list of first lines below, then a list of titles. No searching for any of them online, now, or even looking up back cover copy to find a character’s name. Just give your best guess matching all of them together.

First Lines

  1. “Bella Eden had always known when it would happen—the day before her eighteenth birthday.”
  2. “I did not feel like celebrating.”
  3. “The incessant knocking on her condo door made Layla Karam grumble as she threw off the covers.”
  4. “Wax Mosby was living a life that was going to kill him.”
  5. “Cow manure spewed from the burst pipe and rained down on him like retribution.”
  6. “I want this job.”
  7. “Olivia Rosetti turned up the volume on the radio in the empty parlor.”

Titles

A. The Kissing Tree by Karen Witemeyer, Regina Jennings, Amanda Dykes, and Nicole Deese
B. Forever by Your Side by Tracie Peterson
C. A Haven for Her Heart by Susan Anne Mason
D. The Shepherd’s Wife by Angela Hunt
E. Her Secret Song by Mary Connealy
F. The Sowing Season by Katie Powner
G. Backlash by Rachel Dylan

Think you might know the answers? Highlight the white text in the brackets to test yourself. You can comment with how many you got right! (No prizes, this is just for fun.)

Answers: [1A, 2D, 3G, 4E, 5F, 6B, 7C]

Christy Finalists 2020 Giveaway

We’re thrilled by the announcement today of the 2020 Christy Award finalists for excellence in Christian fiction, and are especially excited to announce that seven Bethany House titles are among them.

All are deserving of the honor, and we’ll be cheering their authors on next month when the winners are revealed (you can sign up for the free webcast here).

We decided it would be fun to hold a giveaway and will chose seven winners from the comments on this post. Each randomly-chosen winner can name one of the nominated books to receive as a prize (both Intrigue a la Mode and A Flood of Love are in the print collection Serving Up Love). To enter, just comment with your answer to this question: describe your ideal fancy apparel, worthy of a red-carpet event, whether you actually own it or not.

October 2020 New Releases

This fall is a bonanza of delightful books for readers, including seven new releases from Bethany House in October: historical, suspense, contemporary, and even a novella collection. There’s a lot of fun to be had this month, and I’m excited to introduce you to these books, including an excerpt from each when you click on the cover.

Backlash by Rachel Dylan
Capital Intrigue #2


Plot Summary: After one of her team members is murdered and the CIA opens an internal investigation on her, Layla Karam reluctantly turns to her ex-boyfriend and private investigator Hunter McCoy to help clear her name and uncover the real killer. With threats on all sides, Layla must put her trust in the man who broke her heart and hope they both come out alive.

 

The Kissing Tree by Karen Witemeyer, Regina Jennings, Amanda Dykes, Nicole Deese

Plot Summary: From the mid-1800s to modern day, these novellas each tell a tale worthy of swooning. These bestselling authors’ unique voices are on display in stories where each couples’ winding path to love happens under the shade an enormous Texas oak tree.

 

The Sowing Season by Katie Powner

Plot Summary: Forced to sell his family farm after sacrificing everything, 63-year-old Gerrit Laninga no longer knows what to do with himself. 15-year-old Rae Walters has growing doubts about The Plan her parents set to help her follow in her father’s footsteps. When their paths cross just as they need a friend the most, Gerrit’s and Rae’s lives change in unexpected ways.

A Haven for Her Heart by Susan Anne Mason
Redemption’s Light #1

Plot Summary: Haunted by painful memories, Olivia Rosetti is singularly focused on running her maternity home for troubled women. Darius Reed is determined to protect his daughter from the prejudice that killed his wife by marrying a society darling. But when he’s suddenly drawn to Olivia, they will learn if love can prove stronger than the secrets and hurts of the past.

 

Forever by Your Side by Tracie Peterson
Willamette Brides #3

Plot Summary: Accompanied by her best friend, Thomas Lowell, Constance Browning returns from studying in the East to catalog the native peoples of Oregon—and to prove that her missionary parents aren’t involved in a secret conspiracy to goad the oppressed tribes to war. As tensions rise amid shocking revelations, Constance may also have a revelation of the heart.

 

The Shepherd’s Wife by Angela Hunt
Jerusalem Road #2

Plot Summary: When her husband is thrown into debtor’s prison, Pheodora—sister of Yeshua of Nazareth—pins her hopes on the birth of two spotless goats to sell for the upcoming Yom Kippur sacrifice so that she can provide for her daughters and survive. Calling on her wits, her family, and her God, can she trust that He will hear and help a lowly shepherd’s wife?

 

Her Secret Song by Mary Connealy
Brides of Hope Mountain #3

Plot Summary: To overcome her fears of the outside world, Ursula Nordegren treks down Hope Mountain where she discovers a badly wounded man. Wax Mosby is remorseful over driving out the Wardens, but when he’s hurt, the last person he expects to rescue him is a beautiful woman related to them. As they weigh the cost of living new lives, an unlikely bond forms between them.

 

Do you have recent book that will make its way onto your “keeper shelf”? Share it with us in the comments.

 

Five Fall Book and Beverage Pairings

Welcome to autumn, readers! Here in Minnesota, leaves are changing, people are hauling out their packed-away long-sleeved clothes, and coffee shops are bringing out all of their fall beverage menus. It’s the perfect time to sip a hot drink and read a good book.

Obviously, not everyone’s weather looks like this (shoutout to our international friends who are going into spring), but if you’re preparing for some cozy reading time as temperatures drop, here are some suggestions for the perfect drink-book pairings.

Pumpkin Spice Latte

This classic of autumnal flavors will put you in a seasonal mood at one sniff. This coffee drink takes the chill off of even the most gloomy and rainy of fall days.

Genre: Romance

Why: Can’t we all use a little heartwarming goodness in our lives? Romances and their happy-ever-after endings are also classics for a reason.

Recommendation: Love and a Little White Lie by Tammy L. Gray

 

Cold Apple Cider

Genre: Mystery or suspense

Why: You’ll need to cool off after getting your heartbeat up reading about chase scenes, mistaken identities, and crime, right? What better way than this apple-orchard favorite?

Recommendation: The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus by Jaime Jo Wright

 

Hot Apple Cider

Why does apple cider get mentioned twice? First, because it’s clearly the superior fall drink. Second, because hot and cold apple cider are two entirely different beverages. Hot cider feels like a sweater right out of the dryer, warm and comforting.

Genre: Historical

Why: Hot cider reminds us of barn-raisings or other old-timey goodness, a drink perfect for nostalgia and learning about the events and people of the past.

Recommendation: A Portrait of Loyalty by Roseanna M. White

 

Cinnamon or Chai Tea

This is the perfect mix of classy-yet-cozy, especially combined with an elegant teacup. It doesn’t water down the fall flavors, though, and usually comes with a kick of caffeine too.

Genre: Contemporary or women’s fiction

Why: You’ve got sophisticated tastes, and like a little complexity in your reads—but still plenty of hope.

Recommendation: The Sowing Season by Katie Powner (releases in October)

 

Hot Chocolate

Is there anything more fun than a rich mug of cocoa, preferably sipped in front of the fireplace? We don’t think so. Especially if you add marshmallows.

Genre: Christmas novella

Why: Come on. We know you’re putting peppermint in this hot chocolate and listening to a playlist with some carols sneaking on it. Just admit it and go full-on holiday cheer.

Recommendation: An Ivy Hill Christmas by Julie Klassen

 

Do you think your go-to genre matches the drink pairing above? Feel free to recommend a book in one of these categories too.

Back to School: Two Authors Talk History and Homeschooling

Hello, dear readers! As we head into the fall, I thought it might be fun to talk about the crossover between historical fiction and teaching history to students. Many of our authors homeschool, but I chose two with recent releases, Kimberly Duffy and Jody Hedlund, to share a bit more about how their writing and teaching worlds intersect. And if you are (or know) a homeschooler, there are a few reading guide resources linked at the bottom of the post if you’re interested in teaching your teens through Christian fiction!

Tell us about your homeschooling background, including when in your homeschool journey you started writing fiction.

Jody: I have five children and have been homeschooling for close to twenty years. My oldest three are now college age and beyond. And I have two left in high school. I’ve been writing for most of my adult life, but I got really serious about pursuing publication when I was in the thick of homeschooling. My youngest was only six months old when I started writing The Preacher’s Bride (my debut book).

Kimberly: I began writing fiction long before I had children. I finished my first book right before getting pregnant with my oldest daughter. But I didn’t begin seriously pursuing publication until my third was born, and by that time I was homeschooling two. I grew up in New York where homeschooling laws are fairly strict, so I didn’t know anyone who homeschooled. I didn’t even know it was a thing. But when I married and moved to Ohio, I became good friends with a young mom who encouraged me from the moment my daughter was born. She insisted I’d be a fantastic homeschooler (which I’ve since learned isn’t at all the truth). When my oldest was ready for kindergarten, I wasn’t ready to release her, so I decided to homeschool her for kindergarten, except by the end of the year, she was reading at a third grade level. So I just continued since it seemed like a great way to instill in my kids a love for reading and learning that wouldn’t be hampered by tests, social pressure, and a tearing down of their natural giftings and inclinations.

What’s the hardest thing about balancing your career as a novelist with teaching and parenting? What about the most surprising?

Jody: The hardest thing is carving out time for writing. When my kids were younger, I spent the majority of my day teaching them and had to relegate writing to when they were napping, resting, or in bed at night. As my kids got older and more independent, I wrote in the afternoons while they did chores or played.

Once my writing career began to take off, I solicited help from other people. My husband’s work schedule allowed him the flexibility to homeschool the kids a couple of mornings a week, which provided me with more writing time. My mom also helped by teaching the kids music, cooking, history, and other fun subjects on Fridays, freeing up more time.

Most surprising was how much I could accomplish in the midst of my busy life. I realized I couldn’t wait for perfect conditions before I began writing and that I needed to grab what I could. I learned to work amidst noise, chaos, and a zillion interruptions. I had to develop strong self-control to keep writing even with so many other things demanding my attention.

Kim: The hardest thing about balancing my career and teaching is that I’m not any good at it. I’m very disciplined, but I also have tunnel vision on whatever it is I’m working on. That means each April, right before homeschool conference season, I spend hours and hours a day organizing and planning and purchasing and developing (I really like creating my own curriculum because I have a lack of awareness when it comes to how much time I actually have). Nothing else gets done—even the laundry. And when I’m writing a first draft, I’m ONLY writing a first draft. Kids? What kids? Thankfully, my older two are fairly independent with their work and rarely need me, and my third grader only requires an hour or so of direct instruction a day.

I used to try so hard to be more balanced, but I’m just not made that way and I’ve since learned there are benefits to being 100% in.

Either now or in the past, what role has fiction played in your homeschooling curriculum?

Jody: I’m a huge proponent of kids learning through “living books” (and not just textbooks). As a result, I read a TON of fiction to my kids when they were younger. I also took advantage of audio books during our lunch time. Also, for many years we were a part of a book group (with other homeschooling families), one that challenged us to read outside our normal interests. All of that helped facilitate a love of reading among my kids.

Kimberly: Fiction has always played a HUGE role in our homeschooling choices. From the kindergarten days of read alouds with Little House on the Prairie to helping one of my children overcome her serious aversion to math by using Life of Fred (a story based math program) to creating and teaching a creative writing program to middle schoolers, fiction is the cornerstone of our day. Reading widely is the very best way to teach grammar and history and the beauty of language. It’s the best way to expose children to other cultures and places and people. It’s the best way to instill in them compassion and empathy. Jesus used story to teach great lessons. I don’t think I need to reinvent the wheel.

What do you think are some effective ways to get kids excited about history?

Jody: I always enjoyed finding books that corresponded to whatever we were learning in history. For example, when we studied Ancient Egypt we read The Golden Goblet, and when we studied the Roman era, we read The Bronze Bow. Reading about real people having real experiences brought history to life and made it more interesting and easier to learn.

Kimberly: I have a secret weapon—a high school experience that taught me the best way to learn history. I dropped out of my AP history class because of bullying (sometimes the meanest kids are the smart ones) but I still wanted to take the exam. I couldn’t open that textbook without some serious anxiety, so I just decided to sign up. And I got a perfect score. Because I read extensively—historical novels, classic literature, autobiographies. Multiple books a week. Over a broad range of topics (but usually historical in nature because, even then, it was my passion). Charlotte Mason, a 19th century British educator, believed the best way to teach history was through what she called “living books,” and I agree. Kids will remember what sparked the Reformation if they read about it in a wonderfully-written novel. They will remember the day the Revolutionary War was won if they read a biography on Washington. They will remember how the Salem witch hunts happened if they read The Witch of Blackbird Pond.

Another thing we love doing is visiting historical sites and living history museums. Study artists and then go see their paintings at a museum. Listen to classical music and learn about the people who created it. Read Farmer Boy and have popcorn and milk like Almanzo. It’s easy to bring history to life, and it’s life that kids remember and enjoy.

If you’re looking for a fantastic, already created history curriculum that is based on these ideals, check out Beautiful Feet Books—a Charlotte Mason inspired history curriculum. They have many grade levels and topics. My favorite is the Around the World with Picture Books (preschoolers), History of the Horse (middle elementary), and Medieval History (middle and high school).

Have you ever used your children’s curriculum to research for your next novel? If so, tell us about it!

Jody: Oh yeah! In fact, it was while reading biographies to my children during history lessons that I began to learn about some of the great heroes of the faith and the women who stood by their sides. I was so fascinated by those “forgotten” women, that I had the urge to bring them to life and tell their stories. That’s what inspired me to write The Preacher’s Bride (which is about the wife of John Bunyan, who wrote Pilgrim’s Progress).

Kimberly: I don’t think I’ve ever used a complete curriculum, but I have used children’s books. I read a few children’s books in preparation for writing A Mosaic of Wings. My favorite was Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian. I find that children’s books are great resources because they distill the essence of a story, person, or place into something easily accessible, to the point, and, because there is often a limit on words, beautifully poetic. There are also pictures!

Historical Fiction Curriculum Guides for Teens

If you homeschool, here’s a fun bonus resource: several Bethany House fiction authors have created curriculum guides, often including study questions related to history, science, and literature to use as a companion with a particular book. Enjoy learning while reading!

A Noble Masquerade by Kristi Ann Hunter

Wedded to War by Jocelyn Green

A Mosaic of Wings by Kimberly Duffy

What was a favorite historical fiction book of yours when you were a child or teenager?

Ask BHP: What Do Publishers Discuss When Considering a New Book?

Hello, friends! It’s Rachael, copywriter and Instagram coordinator, and I’m diving into this month’s Ask BHP blog post. We had two similar questions that I’m excited to answer: “How many people actually read a manuscript before the decision is made to publish it?” and “What do publishers discuss when they’re considering a new book?”

As someone on the marketing team, I don’t see book proposals until one of the last stages: publication board, or pub board. The manuscript starts with our acquisitions editor who obtains it through an agent or from an author they have met directly. After that, they will send it to some test readers who will review the manuscript and give the acquisitions editors feedback on what they liked and didn’t like about it. After that, the book will go through an editorial board where it has to get a thumbs up from the editorial team before reaching me at the pub board. In this meeting, the acquisitions editor has to convince my marketing team, the sales team, and other executives that this is a project worth investing in. Once it reaches pub board, it has gone through approximately fifteen people. Isn’t it astounding how many individuals have to offer input on one book?

At pub board, we make the final decision on whether or not we want to publish a book or series, and then decide to make our offer to the author. But before we come to that conclusion, we discuss a number of things including, but not limited to:

1. Literary Merit

The first thing that we all pay special attention to is the writing (of course!). We take note of the author’s voice, their character development, the uniqueness and familiarity of the story, and what types of readers it will appeal to—Amy wrote more about this here! We also look for red flags. For instance, if multiple people notice something problematic about the plot or characters that is central to the story and can’t be fixed, we might pass on a manuscript. If there are easy fixes, the editor will take note of the things we didn’t like for when they do their content edit. If we feel like it needs more improvement before we can agree to publish it, the author will be asked to make rewrites and it comes back to us again—though, that doesn’t happen too often.

2. Audience

Another thing we discuss is you! We always take into consideration our audience and who this book will appeal to. For instance, if it’s a regency thriller about a young woman named Emma with a hit list instead of a matchmaking list who invents time-travel, well . . . that would seem to be a rather specific audience that our book stores wouldn’t be compelled to buy and our readers may not pick up. But in all seriousness, whether it’s a contemporary romance or a heart-pounding thriller, we know what our readers will be drawn to based on similar books we’ve previously published and book reviews we’ve read. Yes, we read your reviews and they help us enormously so keep them coming!

3. Sales History

If we’re discussing an author who has self-published or has previously published with us or another publishing house, we review their sales history. We want to make sure they are selling steadily so we know we are making a sound investment. If they, or someone else, has written something similar to the book they are proposing that has sold well (or terribly) we take special note of that so we can determine how well this book will do.

4. Platform and Marketing Efforts

As an individual on the marketing team, I always check out the author’s platform. I take a look at their social media stats, what initiatives they are taking to reach new readers, their author connections, and more. We also look to see what efforts they are willing to make in regards to local media or book events, and their plans for a launch team. This discussion isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker—many of our new fiction authors don’t have thousands of followers yet—but it is helpful for standing out.

5. Awards or Notable Mentions

If an author has won awards or have received notable mentions from authors or magazines, we take note of that. When others are excited about those things, we are too! It shows that they have proven to grab others attention and will most likely continue to do so.

There’s also conversation on how many copies we think it will sell, when the best time to launch it will be, and other financial conversations which may confuse you as much as it does me.

Other more specific factors may come up from time to time depending on the project, but these are areas we discuss for all new fiction authors.

What is it about a new book or author that stands out to you?

*To ask a question of your own, fill out the form here: https://forms.gle/MyzL6QPGh3JQKzyE8 

Prayer for Authors: September 2020

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 September:

Julie Klassen
Beverly Lewis
Roseanna M. White
Jaime Jo Wright

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.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”—Isaiah 26:3 (ESV)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For peace in writing and decision-making, career-related or otherwise.
  • For authors being published this month to reach readers who have never heard of them but need the stories they’ve written.
  • For health and safety for these authors and their families.

As always, I’m glad to have all of you joining us in prayer. It’s a wonderful way to support authors and their novels!