Seven Bookish Valentines Gifts

Okay, so it may be too late for you to drop hints about what you really want for Valentine’s Day, but these romantic gifts could be great anytime. Or just get them for a reading buddy…or yourself. All the best gifts are made better when you add in books!

(Not a disclaimer: Bethany House isn’t associated with any of these companies. These are just fun things someone on staff liked and recommended!)

One: Adorable Floral Page Flags

Girl of All Work has several other cute designs too, from cuddly animals to retro looks. Perfect if you’re keeping your spot in a book, marking great quotes, or (for authors) marking edits in a galley copy!

Two: Bookish Bath Products

I’m including my favorite, Lord of the Rings inspired, but check out the whole MacBath line, including Three Musketeers face masks, Anne of Green Gables rose bath bombs, and more!

Three: Jane Austen Mug

You really can’t go wrong with any Austen swag, but this mug has the added benefit of being practical and perfect for some afternoon tea…while enjoying some literary zingers and profound thoughts.

Four: Enneagram Valentines

The Enneagram personality test is all the rage these days for understanding others (and creating characters), and these pretty prints and Valentines are perfect for loved ones who are just your type.

Six: Literary Chocolate

It’s a Valentine’s classic…but with books! The packaging and the flavors are themed for some of your favorite novels at Open Book Chocolates. Yum!

Seven: Cozy Book Candles

Frostbeard Studios has a number of book-related scents, but this one sounds perfect for a February night with a blanket and a book.

 

What literary gifts have you loved, readers? Tell us about them!

 

February 2020 New Releases

Forget valentines, what I want this February are more books! If you’re like me, then I’ve got some great recommendations for you. Women’s fiction, fantasy, historical mystery, historical romance…there’s something for everyone in this great lineup of new titles. Check out the plot summaries, or click on the covers to start reading an excerpt. You might just get pulled in…

More Than We Remember by Christina Suzanne Nelson

Plot Summary: After a life-altering car accident, one night changes everything for three women. As their lives intersect, they can no longer dwell in the memory of who they’ve been. Can they rise from the wreck of the worst moments of their lives to become who they were meant to be?

 

Cry of the Raven by Morgan Busse
The Ravenwood Saga #3

Plot Summary: As the war with the Dominia Empire begins, Lady Selene and Damien must use their gifts to secure the borders and save those devastated by war. But conflict, betrayal, and hatred begin to spread between the Great Houses—and the only one who can unite them is Selene. Will she survive? Or is she destined to fall like the dreamwalkers before her?

 

Veiled in Smoke by Jocelyn Green
The Windy City Saga #1

Plot Summary: As Chicago’s Great Fire destroys their bookshop, Meg and Sylvie Townsend make a harrowing escape from the flames with the help of reporter Nate Pierce. But the trouble doesn’t end there—their father is committed to an asylum after being accused of murder, and they must prove his innocence before the asylum truly drives him mad.

 

The Brightest of Dreams by Susan Anne Mason
Canadian Crossings #3

Plot Summary: Determined to keep his family together, Quinten travels to Canada to find his siblings and track down his employer’s niece, who ran off with a Canadian soldier. When Quinten rescues her from a bad situation, Julia is compelled to repay him by helping him find his sister—but soon after, she receives devastating news that changes everything.

 

What do you think is a sure way for someone to say “I love you” to a reader in their life, besides buying them books?

Prayer for Authors: February 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 February:

Morgan L. Busse
Jocelyn Green
Susan Anne Mason
Christina Suzann Nelson

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.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”—Ephesians 4:32 (ESV)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For peace and kindness in relationships, both family and friends and others around them.
  • For the discipline needed to keep writing and meet other deadlines during a busy time.
  • For readers who pick up one of these books to resonate with the spiritual themes.

Thanks so much for taking a few moments of your day to pray for these authors. It means a lot to us here at Bethany House!

Eight Things Guaranteed to Make Readers Nostalgic

There are lots of great conversations you can have with readers, but some of my favorites are about what makes us nostalgic. Whether it’s a childhood picture book memory or the bookstore that got away (aka isn’t in your hometown), I hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane.

One: Book-It

If you weren’t one of the millions of kids who got a free personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut for completing a reading goal, starting in 1984, I’m sorry for your joy-bereft childhood. You should sit down right now, make a monthly goal, and reward yourself with a greasy, cheesy, don’t-have-to-share-with-my-sister little slice of glory if you make it. Because this was the best reward program ever. Plus, the badges, am I right? So good.

Two: The First Read of Your Favorite Book/Series

Sure, you’ve re-read it, recommended it to friends, maybe seen the movie version a dozen times, and so on, but nothing beats the excitement of the first time you read a favorite book. Before you knew what would happen to the characters, back when every cliffhanger left you agonized (especially if there were years between releases in a series), to all the late nights reading “one more chapter.” Ah yes. If only we could time travel and re-experience that wonder. Sigh.

Three: Reading Contests

Whether it was run by your library over the summer to keep you off the streets or some elementary school achievement bribe, there’s something about checklists and competition that warms a reader’s heart. Like, okay, I can still read a stack of books now, but I won’t be able to put snobby Susie Accelerated Reader Queen in her place, edging her out in the last few days by binging a bunch of Nancy Drew mysteries. It’s just not the same level of satisfaction. Besides that, remember the prizes? Those multi-colored clicky pens, slap bracelets, yo-yos, erasers shaped like small animals, and all manner of plastic toys that broke the first recess you took them out. Real treasures, for sure.

Four: Beloved Original Copies

I’m not talking fancy first editions here, just the battered-and-scarred books that have seen a lot of love in their day and hold a place of honor on the bookshelf. Even if newer, cooler covers have come out, there’s something sentimental about the originals, even if the originals are falling apart at the spine. Like, okay, I know the words inside are the same and it shouldn’t make a difference, but seriously, what nonsense are the new cheap-animation-knockoff Boxcar Children covers? Heresy.

Five: PBS Book Programming

Whether you still have a hard time remembering that the main characters of all classic novels aren’t Jack Russell terriers or now have the Reading Rainbow theme song stuck in your head, PBS had some delightful book-themed shows. (Reading Rainbow retweeted one of the flowcharts I made for Bethany House about getting people books for Christmas, and it was one of the happier moments of my life.) If none of that resonates with you, just accept the fact that in Wishbone, a dog stars in reimagined classics with so many canine puns (Ivanhound, Frankenbone, Bone of Arc) and that LeVar Burton is the actual best. That’s all you need to know.

Six: Scholastic Book Fairs

Picture tables of books with shiny, colorful covers, all within arm’s reach, with the visual appeal of a candy store window full of those giant lollipops that no one can actual eat. There was the avenue of horse and puppy books with big round eyes begging you to adopt them. There were displays of absurdly gender-specific reads, including super gross potty humor titles and books about princesses with embossing or glitter. There were rows and rows of chapter books that made you feel like the Awesome Big Kid you totally were, because look, there’s only one black-and-white picture per chapter now! My school cleverly paired the book fair with Grandparent’s Day, because what grandma is not going to buy their precious angel a stack of Choose-Your-Own-Adventure survival books? (She was not, for the record, thrilled about the Captain Underpants trend.) Man. Those were the days.

Seven: Vacation Bookstore Visits

It seems like everyone has been on a trip where they find The Bookstore of Their Dreams. Whether it’s elegant and rambling with every book you could ever imagine or cozy and cramped with hilarious signs in the stacks, something about it makes you want to move in. Like, permanently. (And if you never visit bookstores on vacation, build it into your schedule, it’s the best.) Unfortunately, this near-mythical bookstore is too far away for regular visits, so you can only think wistfully of how much of your budget you’d spend on books if it was across the street instead of across the country, or even the world.

Eight: Iconic Children’s Book Characters

Bonus points if said character had a weird name, because let’s face it, you don’t get characters like Amelia Bedelia, Yertle the Turtle, Pippi Longstocking, and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle in grown-up literature, which is a real shame. But seriously, forget the Internet fandoms over TV shows and such, I want to get into a hearty debate over whether the ending to Charlotte’s Web is more or less tragic than Where the Red Fern Grows. Or is Willy Wonka even a reasonable protagonist, or a thinly-veiled sociopath? And why is Goodnight, Moon a kids’ book when it is so deeply eerie? These are the real questions, guys.

Which of these makes you feel the most nostalgic? Tell us about it in the comments!

Beverly Lewis Shares About Her Writing Life

Many of our readers love hearing about what writers go through to get books to them…and we have the joy of having Beverly Lewis on the blog today to tell you all about it! With over 17 million books in print, she has a lot of wisdom to share about the writing and publishing process, so listen in!

Q: When did you start writing? What were your first efforts?

A: At the tender age of nine, I began secretly writing short stories and poetry. My mother knew where I kept my work hidden and managed to save everything I wrote, even the stories I dreamed up during my grade school years. One story is semi-autobiographical, about a young girl whose parents can no longer afford piano lessons for her. The manuscript was 77 pages long and titled “She Shall Have Music,” and was my first “book,” penned under the shade of a lone willow tree.

Q: Have you had any formal writing education?

A: My first semester of college, I was torn between a music degree and a journalism degree. I ended up following both passions that ruled me from my childhood and graduated with a Bachelor of Music Ed with emphasis on piano and voice, and close to a minor in English. I landed a teaching job immediately, where I taught music (K-6) and creative writing for fifth graders and realized, once again, that my two passions had converged in an amazing way!

Q: At what point(s) in your career did you feel like you’ve gone from amateur to pro?

A: When my first book surprisingly morphed into a 14-book series for pre-teen girls (“Holly’s Heart” series), I knew that my hobby-writing days were behind me. Those books written in the first-person point-of-view, like an open letter from my heart to the reader, are still popular with young girls today, in print after 26 years! Stunning. 😊

Q: Have you had help along the way? Any mentors?

A: My biggest fan when I was a child writer was my cousin Joyce, who begged for the next chapter in my little books when she and her mom visited us on weekends. Years later, after I was married, Dave, my husband and first editor, cheered me on to higher heights, urging me to write for magazines, and, later, books for kids, teens and adults. Two college professors also insisted that I consider writing as a possible career—fiction and nonfiction.

Q: What’s the best writing advice you’ve gotten?

A: Write your heart/passion.

Q: What’s the worst?

A: Always avoid writing first-person point-of-view for prologues and epilogues. (Thankfully, I rejected that terrible advice. That, in fact, is one of the hallmarks of my bestselling novels!)

Q: How do you find the time to write?

A: Writing is a significant part of my daily life, and always has been, so I write frequently and for long hours, since my husband and I are empty-nesters. While I our three children were little, I wrote when they napped and after they were tucked into bed at night. Actually, I was “writing” in my head a lot when I wasn’t at the computer during those years. (Remember, I’ve been happily writing since I was nine years old.) A writer is a writer is a writer. . . .

Q: Do you always write at your computer? Where are you most prolific?

A: Sometimes, for the sheer fun of it, I write longhand, to keep things close to my heart and with an intimate facet. Primarily, though, I work at my computer in my home office, where my fingers typically fly across the keys—like they do at the piano keyboard, since I was a little girl. There must be some curious correlation.

Q: Were their any sacrifices you had to make to be a writer?

A: After The Shunning (my breakout novel for adults) was released in 1997, I gave up my then full-time job (running a large music studio for advanced students of piano, voice, violin, and music theory/composition). The sacrifice came because I adored my long-time students and missed interacting with them each week, although they’ve kept in touch with me through the years.

Q: Take us through the process of writing a book. How long does that process usually take?

A: My ideas for novels come, typically, a year or two prior to when I will begin writing that first draft. I’ve been writing two novels per year for more than twenty years, so there is this overlap of pieces—ideas-outlines, first drafts, revisions and final pages. Never a lull in the line-up of my projects, so far, which I absolutely love.

Q: Have you received any feedback on how your books and series have impacted its readers?

A: One of my greatest joys is hearing from readers who say my stories have touched them significantly—even changed the direction of their lives. So many have written to me: teens in West Africa, men and women of all ages in America, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and Central America…people whom God is meeting on a personal level, where my readers are spiritually, emotionally, physically. Most of all, I hope readers might come to know the love of Christ in a more intimate way through having discovered what unconditional love looks like in my books—to experience just a taste of the height and width and breadth of God’s love for each of us.

Q: Will you do more books in this genre?

A: If I could write any type of book without barriers, I would write precisely what I believe God is nudging me to…in short, the genre I’m currently writing. I’m quite passionate about what I do—creating characters who “live and breathe” in my readers’ hearts and minds, and in mine, as well. I write from a tender heart, and as long as God continues to give me great storylines that are meaningful and touch a nerve in readers, I will keep writing Amish fiction. My last two-book family saga, The Tinderbox and The Timepiece, is generating a lot of online buzz, and I’m thrilled to respond to readers’ seemingly unquenchable desire for more of my work. I feel absolutely blessed!

Q: What advice would you give other writers, especially in your genre?

A: Forever and always—read! And I suggest reading the very best of literature…the old classics to start. Also, read the kind of story you’d like to write. As for the actual writing, don’t worry about perfection at first. Take your time, get the story down, then rewrite and fine-tune later. And, yes, spelling and grammar do count! There are many wonderful reference tools for new writers. Ask the reference librarian at your local public library for help in locating books to point you in the direction of publishers who may be interested in your work.

Thanks so much for joining us, Beverly! If you’d like to follow Beverly, she posts nearly every day on her Facebook page. Join her there for lots of bookish fun! And look for her next novel, The Stone Wall, releasing in September 2020.

Ask Bethany House 2020!

It’s a new year! And that means…new questions for our monthly(ish) series of posts, Ask Bethany House! I love this part of my job, because it’s super fun to see what questions readers have for us. Even when I can’t answer them myself, there’s often someone on the team who can, and I often end up learning things from the process.

You can take a look at past posts if you want to see what type of question we’ve answered before. Some repeats are okay, but I’ll also look for some totally new questions.

Once you’ve done that, head over to the survey here and ask away!

To thank you for taking the time to come up with a topic, on January 21, I’ll pick three winners from our participants who can select their choice of one of our December, January, or February new releases.

Thanks, all, and happy questioning!

January 2020 New Releases

Welcome to 2020! And what a great lineup of new releases we have to start off a new year! Take a look at each of these page-turning novels and see what stands out to you. You can start reading by clicking the cover. Enjoy!

 

End Game by Rachel Dylan
Capital Intrigue #1

Plot Summary: When elite members of the military are murdered on the streets of Washington, D.C., FBI Special Agent Bailey Ryan and NCIS Special Agent Marco Agostini must work together to bring the perpetrator to justice. As the stakes rise in a twisted conspiracy and allies turn to enemies, the biggest secret yet to be uncovered could be the end of them all.

 

Forever Hidden by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse
The Treasures of Nome #1

Plot Summary: When her grandfather’s health begins to decline, Havyn is determined to keep her family together. But everyone has secrets—including John, the hired stranger who recently arrived on their farm. To help out, Havyn starts singing at a local roadhouse—but dangerous eyes grow jealous as she and John grow closer. Will they realize the peril before it is too late?

 

On Wings of Devotion by Roseanna M. White
The Codebreakers #2

Plot Summary: All of England thinks Phillip Camden a monster for the deaths of his squadron. As Nurse Arabelle Denler watches him every day, though, she sees something far different: a hurting man desperate for mercy. But when an old acquaintance shows up and seems set on using him in a plot that has the codebreakers of Room 40 in a frenzy, new affections are put to the test.

 

What elements do you think stand out about each of these covers? (I’m always gathering these little details for future cover discussion meetings.)

Prayer for Authors: January 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 January:

Rachel Dylan
Tracie Peterson
Roseanna M. White
Kimberley Woodhouse

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.

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”—Psalm 73:25-26 (ESV)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For all the organization needed to keep up with deadlines and tasks during a busy time.
  • For inspiration and ideas for future books (or ways to revise current manuscripts).
  • For those who recommend books to others to find books with a message that will benefit readers.

We’re always grateful to have you praying with us, readers, but that’s especially true as we head into a new year. Thanks so much!

Randomly Generated Reading Challenge 2020

Hello, readers! After seeing lots of reading challenges around the Internet, I wanted to make my own, but I couldn’t come up with anything especially original.

So, I did what any forward-thinking book-lover would do…I went to a random word generator on the Internet and did some clicking. Here are the words and corresponding challenges I came up with. Enjoy! You can bookmark this list, or print the graphic below and use it as a reminder. Be sure to check off the book that qualifies for each month!

 

January
Word: lost
Challenge: A book you should have read in school but didn’t. (Interpret that however you like!)

February
Word: change
Challenge: A discounted or sale book/ebook.

March
Word: advance
Challenge: A novel set during wartime.

April
Word: complication
Challenge: A book that shows you the main plot problem in the title/cover.

May
Word: language
Challenge: A prestigious award-winning book.

June
Word: favorite
Challenge: A re-read of a childhood classic.

July
Word: popcorn
Challenge: A book that has been or will be made into a movie.

August
Word: idea
Challenge: A nonfiction book on a topic that interests you.

September
Word: refer
Challenge: A recommendation from a friend (or librarian or bookstore owner).

October
Word: grandmother
Challenge: A book where one of the main characters is 65+.

November
Word: freeze
Challenge: A novel with ice or snow on the cover.

December
Word: selection
Challenge: Free space! Pick anything that looks interesting.

On Instagram, we’ll be choosing one book per month that fits into the categories above and tagging our picks with #BHPChallenge2020. Feel free to join us if you like!

After looking at the categories above, do you have any books you’d recommend to others, readers?

Is This Wrapped Present a Book? (A Handy Flowchart)

I don’t know about all of you, but I’m on constant Christmas surveillance to detect my favorite presents under the tree…books! After years of careful research, I’ve come up with some ways to be confident in my guessing abilities.

This is Amy Green, fiction publicist…and sneaky book-present detective. Here is my top-secret method for your instruction and use. Enjoy!

Okay, readers, what tips have you used to determine whether you have any book presents under the tree?