Ask BHP: Who Are Some New Authors I Should Know?

Love this question from our Ask BHP poll: “Sometimes I tend to default to my favorite authors, but I want to branch out. Who are some up-and-coming authors I should be aware of?”

Well. I’m so very glad you asked!

I enjoy nothing more than introducing new authors to the world, so without further ado, here are three authors whose first Bethany House novel released in the past year and a half or so. They may be new to you since they haven’t been in the inspirational fiction world for long, so go ahead and add their novels to your TBR list!

Meet Susan Anne Mason…

Susan Anne Mason

Connilyn Cossette…

Cossette_Connilyn

And Kristi Ann Hunter!

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I decided to ask all of the authors a few quick questions so you can get to know them and their writing.

Amy: Tell us what inspired your novel. Did you start with a character? A situation? An image?

Susan: The first whisper of Irish Meadows began with me wanting to create a sweeping saga about a big Irish family, along the lines of The Thornbirds. Part of the idea for the story was based on my own grandfather’s family who came over from Ireland and settled in Brooklyn, New York. They had many children, some of whom were born after they came to the USA. But instead of living in the tenements of Brooklyn, I wanted my fictional family to have achieved success and be members of the upper class. And so I came up with the horse farm, Irish Meadows, and the assertive patriarch, James O’Leary, who would wreak havoc on his children’s lives in order to maintain the status he had achieved.

Connilyn: Counted with the Stars was inspired by a study I was doing on my own into Exodus and the roots of my faith. I ran across the verse in Exodus 12:38 that said “a mixed multitude went up with them.” I thought to myself—who were these people that went with the Hebrews on the Exodus? I wondered whether some of them might be Egyptian and what would have inspired them to follow an invisible God into the wilderness when all they had ever known were the gods of Egypt? In my mind an image appeared—an Egyptian woman standing on the bank of the Jordan River waiting to enter the Promised Land. Kiya’s story was born from that vision and from my curiosity about the motivations by those we would call “Gentiles” who journeyed with the Hebrews.

Kristi: I started A Noble Masquerade with Miranda. I got to know her while writing A Lady of Esteem. She was a much more guarded person that I originally thought she would be and I knew that someone would have to get under her guard in order to really get to know her. That meant she had to meet Ryland in such a way that her normal defenses would be shaken. Continue reading

Prayer for Authors: August 2016

Normally these posts happen on the first Sunday of the month, but this time I accidentally scheduled the post for 2017, which is not helpful at all to our lovely August 2016 ladies with new releases. Since I’m sure they’d still appreciate prayer, here’s the post a few weeks late!  To read more about the reasons behind this time of prayer, go to this post.

Prayer

Authors with Books Releasing in August:

Melissa Jagears
Laurel Oke Logan
Janette Oke
Judith Miller
Sarah Loudin Thomas

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.

Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son….The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command.– Hebrews 1:1-3, NLT

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For sustaining grace to get through deadlines, to-do lists, and the craziness of release month without losing focus.
  • For God to use these books to change hearts and minds.
  • For words and ideas to come for any current writing projects.

We appreciate you, BHP blog readers! Thanks for taking some time to remember these authors in your prayers.

Seven Annoyances Every Reader Understands

Being a reader can be tough. Not only do readers face trials and tribulations in their quest to finish as many great books as possible, but non-readers just don’t get it. They can’t even begin to relate, and you’re left wishing your closet would take you to [insert favorite fictional world here], despairing because your favorite fictional hero is, in fact, fictional, and occasionally praying for main characters on accident.

This post is for all the bookaholics out there who need some reassurance that they are not alone. (Tweet this!) If you’ve ever craved a little sympathy, if you want to diagnose your novel addiction, if you just want to hear that you’re not crazy, read on, my reader friend. Read on.

Seven Annoyances Every Reader Understands

One: Too many books, not enough time.

This is a big one, folks. Of course, you have your favorite authors who are always a must-read. But then friends recommend their top picks, and you see a lovely cover at the bookstore, and really, you should be better at catching up on the classics, and what about nonfiction…and your list of books to be read grows steadily longer, until there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

We feel your pain. But keep adding to that TBR pile, keep buying that series on sale planning to get it someday, keep turning your “office” into a giant sculpture of book stacks, because those are the actions of hope.

And friends, readers should never, ever give up hope.

And all things considered, it’s a good problem to have, so keep that in mind as you stare valiantly up at your mountains of books.

Two: So. Many. Emotions.

As if real life weren’t stressful enough, we readers also heap on the conflict, intrigue, and impossible choices of dozens of fictional characters. Whether it’s a sobbing-by-the-last-page sort of ending or a story so tense that you felt like you might have a heart attack yourself before it was all over, the emotions of reading can be intense. Some books should come with a warning label.

This is really only an annoyance, though, when a non-reader, observing your vicarious emotional breakdown, says something dangerously flippant like “Those people aren’t real, you know” or the dreaded “Um…it’s just a book.”

“Just a book? Try 400 pages of beautifully written angst and agony as these people I love go through trials of all kinds and I barely hang on to hope for a happy ending.”

Sigh. Normal people just don’t get it. Continue reading

One Good Book Deserves Another: August New Releases

Time to talk series! Obviously, each book in a series should be a complete story with a satisfying ending, but after that, there are many different kinds of series. Are they connected by one central protagonist, a family, a setting, or a chain of historical events? Do they have a thread of unresolved suspense that leaves you waiting anxiously for the next release date, or are all the plot questions resolved by the last page?

For Bethany House, August was a month that does a good job displaying different kinds of series. Of the books listed below, The Artisan’s Wife is closing out a trilogy with a similar cast of characters, the McKay family, but with each story following a different protagonist. A Tapestry of Secrets is not technically in a numbered series, but it gives us a sense of closure about some of our favorite characters’ future—and past. Where Hope Prevails is the conclusion to Beth Thatcher’s journey in the Canadian frontier. And A Heart Most Certain is the first in a series set in the same town, each featuring the love story of one of the women there.

To get a behind-the-scenes peek into the making of these novels, the authors share a few more details about the place this entry has in the series as a whole, and how it came about. (And, as usual, click on the cover if you want to read an excerpt.)

Artisan's Wife

Judith: In this final book of the series, one of Ewan McKay’s twin sisters, Ainslee, takes center stage as the protagonist. All of these books have been centered around clay deposits in the state of West Virginia. The Artisan’s Wife depicts yet another use of those clay deposits: the family’s newly acquired tile works. As in the previous books in this series, the McKay family is confronted with issues that threaten to fracture the family. As the story unfolds, it looks at the issues of genuine forgiveness and the ability to consider change a positive factor in our lives.

Tapestry of Secrets

Sarah: The mystery that’s lingered since Miracle in a Dry Season is the identity of Sadie’s father. My favorite part of writing this latest novel, A Tapestry of Secrets, was going back to the 1940s and revealing that secret by telling Perla’s story. Anyone who’s read the previous books knows she had a child out of wedlock, but how that unfolded was never discussed. So many readers wanted to know about little Sadie and what happened to her later in life. Not only will they find that out, but they’ll also learn who her father was—something Sadie herself is conflicted about discovering.

A Heart Most Certain

Melissa: This book was actually the one I was editing in hopes of putting it out on submission when Bethany House contracted A Bride for Keeps. Now, all I thought I’d have to do was finish editing where I left off, but I had grown as a writer over the course of the Unexpected Brides series, so I had to rewrite some things as well. Be sure to keep a lookout for secondary characters in A Heart Most Certain—some will be featured in the next romances of the series, set in the same town.

Where Hope Prevails

Laurel: Because this is a collaboration with the television movie and TV show which derived from Mom’s book When Calls the Heart, we grafted a new branch into her first Elizabeth Thatcher’s family tree for this novel. These new characters weren’t mentioned in the original series of stories, but we made Beth a much younger cousin to the woman she refers to as “Aunt Elizabeth.” In Where Hope Prevails, Beth wrestles with her internal struggles and sense of calling…but readers will leave with a sense of completeness about what God has for her future.

Readers, do you have a favorite go-to series that you read and re-read?

What Makes a Great Story?

Coming off of our BHP Book Banter, I’m wading into the gridded, graphed, somewhat-unfamiliar world of data analysis. I like to imagine myself hacking through a dense jungle of spreadsheet rows and columns with a machete of clarity, because that sounds significantly more interesting than organizing survey responses.

Armed with that particular brand of melodrama, I found that while some of the sorting and graphing is a bit tedious, there are so many interesting comments and conclusions that it’s hard to be bored. I’m going to share one in particular that I think readers and writers alike will appreciate.

When readers were asked “What elements make a great story?” I noticed the feedback often clumped up in contrasting pairs.

Characters should be “flawed” but still “likeable.” Plots that are both “believable” and “surprising” make the best stories. Novels that “make you laugh” and “make you cry” were listed as favorites, often by the same person. The two most common adjectives applied to everything from setting to structure to and dialogue were “realistic/familiar” and “unique.”

HOpeAnd it made me think: good stories hold opposites in tension because The Story does too.

It doesn’t have to be Christian fiction, or even fiction written from the point of view of a Christian, for this to come through, although one thing that I think sets Christian fiction apart is seen in another comment made by several readers: “It’s not necessarily that the ending needs to be happy…but it needs to be hopeful.”

A special note for you writers—seeing these comments, I realized again that what you do is hard work. No other way around it. To write the novel described in these surveys you have to…

  • Give us characters who are better than us in some way so we look up to them…but also just like us so we can relate to them.
  • Portray a beautiful romance (which in real life can be a little dramatic, because lovebirds aren’t necessarily the most rational beings) without being cheesy, cloying, or over-the-top.
  • Maintain tension and suspense without slipping into melodrama or crossing the line into the improbability.
  • Make the heroes or heroines people with admirable qualities so we cheer them on the whole way, while still giving them deep flaws and weaknesses.
  • Plan a storyline that is complex enough to engage readers and keep them turning pages, but not so intricate that it becomes confusing.
  • Create an ending that has some element of unexpectedness, while still being nicely foreshadowed so it doesn’t feel like it dropped out of the sky.

Here’s the thing, though: you have everything you need to do this.

As a person of faith, you hold these contrasts together all the time. You believe that people are both made in the image of God and deeply broken by sin. You pray in the name of Jesus who was fully God and fully man. You listen every Easter to the greatest example of a surprising yet inevitable ending.

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Another contrast from C.S. Lewis, who liked writing about paradoxes.

Keep telling your stories, Christian writers. The world needs them because the world needs more hope.

Readers, which of the bullet points above do you think would be hardest to balance? (Writers, if you want to chime in with which one is most difficult for you, you’re welcome to do so!)

Ask BHP: Where Can I Meet With Bethany House?

This week’s question is probably from an aspiring writer who asks, “Where could I meet with Bethany House’s acquisition editors? Which conferences will they be attending?”

This year, Bethany House editors are only going to be at the ACFW conference. Usually they’re at a few others, but if you’re planning to talk to Dave Long or Raela Schoenherr in 2016, you’ll need to do it there. (For more on what BHP acquisition editors are looking for, there are some detailed and helpful tips here and here.)

ACFW

I (Amy Green, fiction publicist) will be at Taylor University’s Professional Writing Conference, explaining how to get published by going through examples of proposals from debut authors who received a contract with Bethany House. Since I’m not an editor, I won’t be taking pitch appointments, but I’d be more than happy to look at proposals and give the “inside scoop” on dos and don’ts. The conference is still taking registrations for a limited time, so it would be fun to see you there!

This week’s post is short because I’m spending my time getting ready for our BHP Book Banter over on Facebook! I’d love it if you’re able to join in the fun. You can find out more about that event here.

See you soon!

BHP Book Banter 2016

Even publishers like to party every now and then!

We want to hear what you have to say, on everything from cover design to what makes a book one you’d recommend to others to how many author newsletters you’ve signed up for.

But instead of just pushing a survey at you, we decided to throw a party! Like our author Book Banters, this will be held on a Facebook event page. There will be a set time where I’ll be posting survey questions—the time on the event—but anyone can stop by for 24 hours after the event and answer the questions and take the surveys to be entered in drawings for prizes. That way, you can come and go as you’re able and not feel like you’re missing out.

And if you really like this tag, I found it here.

 

Last year’s event was fun and jam-packed with information that I compiled. Some was helpful for Bethany House, some I passed on to our authors if I thought it might be useful to them.

Once again, there will be a set time for the party, but you can feel free to drop by afterward to see the posts and answer questions. Feel free to invite all of your reading friends!

BHP Book Banter
Thursday, July 21, 11 AM – 1 PM

Hostess
Amy Green, Bethany House fiction publicist and lover of all things Christian fiction

Schedule of Events
Note that all the times below are in Central, so feel free to do a bit of quick calculating to figure out when to set your alarms and mark your calendars in your time zone.

11:00
Welcome and Costume Party—in a comment on the welcome post, you can share a picture of an outfit you’re “wearing” to the party that might be worn by one of your favorite Christian fiction characters. (You don’t actually need to wear it—just find an image to share with the rest of us…and be sure to tell us which character you’re representing!)

Starting at 11:10 and throughout
Surveys and Q&A—I’ll post surveys for you to answer, and you can ask me questions about Bethany House if you like. I’ll do my best to answer them! Feel free to answer as many of the surveys as you like—each one will enter you into a giveaway (mostly books, but also gift cards and a few surprises).

12:00
Inside Bethany House—behind-the-scenes pictures of what goes on at Bethany House, including our costume closet and cover roughs.

12:30
Shameless Self-Promotion Post—I’ll put up a post where you can fill the comments with links if you’re a book blogger and want others to join in the fun at your site. We love helping readers gather in communities and interact—that’s the fun of it!

1:00
Conclusion—the event is officially over. But remember, if you weren’t able to be there during the specified time, you can drop by the page at any point and respond to the surveys.

Giveaway winners will be announced at noon on Friday, July 22, so be sure to give your input before then for a chance to win books, gift cards, and other reader goodies.

RSVP

Get your “costume,” questions, and opinions ready, and I’ll see you on the 21st!

July Bethany House Books

Summer is in full-swing, and if you’re like me, you enjoy reading a good book, whether that’s beside the pool or inside an air-conditioned refuge from the heat. Ever since my days getting plastic toys and Pizza Hut coupons from my local library, I’ve put “summer reading” on the top of my to-do list.

For your own summer reading, I can highly recommend Bethany House’s July lineup—there’s something here for everyone, whether it’s the new series starter from Mary Connealy, a trip to Seattle of the past with Tracie Peterson, Dina Sleiman’s mix of romance and adventure in medieval times, or a Regency love story from Kristi Ann Hunter.

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Be sure to click on the covers below to read the first few chapters and see which story catches your attention!

A Beauty Refined by Tracie Peterson

Beauty Refined

Phoebe Von Bergen is excited to visit America at last! But when she accompanies her father from Germany to Montana in search of sapphires, she has no idea of his real plans. As handsome lapidary Ian Harper gets to know Phoebe, he slowly learns the truth about her family. Yet exposing her father’s deception could put Phoebe’s life in danger. . . .

An Elegant Façade by Kristi Ann Hunter

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Lady Georgina Hawthorne has worked hard to become the Incomparable for her debut season. She is determined to marry well—and Colin McCrae is not her idea of eligible. But as their paths continue to cross, their ongoing clash of wits has both Georgina and Colin questioning their first impressions as well as their priorities and ambitions.

Courageous by Dina L. Sleiman

Courageous

Inspired to become a defender of the cross, Rosalind of Ipsworth joins a crusade to set captives free from Saracen prisons. As she and fellow crusader Sir Randel Penigree train young recruits, the two find themselves unexpectedly drawn to each other. Amid many dangers, they are both forced to reconsider their priorities and the very nature of their God.

No Way Up by Mary Connealy

No Way Up

After ranch patriarch Chance Boden is wounded in an accident, he demands that the conditions of his will go into effect immediately: His children must reconcile and live at home for a full year or forfeit the ranch. He trusts hired hand Heath Kincaid to see it done. But when Heath suspects foul play, his desire to protect Chance’s daughter goes beyond duty.

Do you or your children participate in a summer reading program at your local library? If so, what are some of the prizes?

Prayer for Authors: July 2016

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.

Authors with Books Releasing in July:

Mary Connealy
Kristi Ann Hunter
Tracie Peterson
Dina Sleiman

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.

Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.”– 1 Chronicles 16:10-11, NIV

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For the ability to prioritize time with God even in a busy season with lots of things on the to-do list.
  • For readers to have a deeper or new understanding of their faith after finishing one of these novels.
  • For times of refreshment and encouragement in unlikely places.

As always, I’m grateful for and encouraged by those of you who take a few moments to pray for these authors. It means a lot!

Celebrating our Award Nominees and Winners!

It’s award season, and with it comes recognition for some great books! The Carol award finalists were announced earlier this week, with winners to be presented at the ACFW conference in August. Several were from the Bethany House family, and I’m excited to show them off. You can click on each cover to read an excerpt.

Contemporary:

Finding Me
Finding Me by Kathryn Cushman

After her father’s death, Kelli discovers a shocking secret: She has a family she’s never known. She may want answers, but are some doors better left shut?

Historical Romance:

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Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden

When a librarian and a prominent congressman join forces to solve a mystery, they become entangled in secrets more perilous than they could have ever imagined.

Worthy Pursuit

A Worthy Pursuit by Karen Witemeyer

A teacher on the run. A tracker in pursuit. Can Charlotte and Stone learn to trust each other before they both lose what they hold most dear?

Romance:

Until the Harvest

Until the Harvest by Sarah Loudin Thomas

When a family tragedy derails his studies, Henry returns home feeling lost. Can a gifted young girl and her older sister help him find his way again?

Young Adult:

Dauntless

Dauntless by Dina L. Sleiman

Timothy Grey plans to earn a title by capturing Lady Merry and her band of orphan thieves. But will he carry out his mission when he meets their dauntless leader face-to-face?

Also, a special congratulations to Susan Anne Mason for winning a Christy Award in the Best First Novel category for Irish Meadows. Irish Meadows also joined Taken by Dee Henderson and The Painter’s Daughter by Julie Klassen to win Christian Retailing’s Best Awards. Also recently announced was Patrick W. Carr’s INSPY award win for The Shock of Night. We’re excited for you!

To celebrate, we’re doing a giveaway on the blog. Comment below with an answer to this question: what’s a time period or setting you would enjoy reading a novel about? I’ll choose 5 winners on Tuesday, July 5 to win their choice of one of these five Carol finalist titles. Winners will be notified by a reply to their comment.