Guest Post: Nancy Mehl on Writing Suspense and Mystery

This week, Nancy Mehl is sharing a piece of her writing journey with us. It’s always fascinating to me how different every author’s publication stories are! Hope you enjoy an insider’s look.

Mehl_NancyWhen I first started writing, I was pulled toward mainstream mystery. That’s what I read, and it was all I wanted to write.

I’d sold a couple of novels to small publishers before my agent asked me if I wanted to submit a proposal for a cozy mystery to a publisher that was starting a book club. “Sure,” I said, “but first, what’s a cozy mystery?” A quick explanation revealed that they weren’t much different than what I was already writing. I tweaked my proposal—created a small town with some eccentric characters—and then added the other elements that make up a cozy. I found that my story flowed easily. Cozies were fun! I got the contract and ended up writing seven inspirational cozy mysteries, even winning the Carol award for one of them.

Then one of my editors asked me to turn a cozy mystery proposal into romantic suspense. Here I am, six books later, writing romantic suspense, not a genre I’d originally envisioned for myself.

By nature, writers are introspective human beings, so not long ago I began to wonder if I was really happy where I was. Had all the twists and turns in my career led me to a place where I could be happy? Surprisingly, the answer to my question was “Yes!” But why? What had I discovered in the suspense genre that brought me fulfillment?
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Ask Bethany House: Why Traditional Publishing?

Welcome to this month’s edition of Ask Bethany House! I’m Amy Green, the fiction publicist here, and I’ve been answering some FAQs submitted via our survey. (Next month, we’ll be doing a post of interest to aspiring writers—be sure to check back!)

Question: In the modern era, when anyone can self-publish, what are the benefits of working with a publisher?

Answer: This question is kind of like asking the local Downtown Café owner why there is still a need for coffee shops when anyone can get a Keurig. First, the person answering has a pretty significant bias. But, second, bias aside, there are still good reasons for the more traditional option to exist.

I want to start off by saying that I have nothing against authors who self-publish. (I also, incidentally, have nothing against Keurigs.) Self-publishing can be a great option depending on your goals, but it’s also an area I am not equipped to talk about. There are lots of bloggers and indie writers out there with great information about the process of and merits to independent or self-publishing, so I’d advise taking a look at them to balance out your perspective. I’m not trying to say that traditional publishing is the best option in every situation, or that it has no downsides. I’m only saying that traditional publishing has many benefits, and that it’s by no means irrelevant.

Like the coffee shop owner, I recognize that my answer will be biased, but I hope it’s helpful anyway. (And that you’re now in the mood for a nice caramel latte to sip as you read the rest of this post.)


Here are three reasons I think traditional publishing matters in a self-publishing world.

Because Traditional Houses Have Greater Reach

Practically, if you want to see your book in brick-and-mortar stores, traditional publishing is the way to go, because A. physical stores have a limited space for inventory and B. buyers for LifeWay or Family Christian or Barnes & Noble or the independent stores trust that the books from Bethany House will be high-quality Christian fiction. We have a reputation with them.

Beyond retail stores, the same principle applies with bloggers, media contacts, and ad reps. Traditional publishers (and their corresponding promotional budgets and databases of reviewers and staff members dedicated to marketing books) can do more to get books noticed. Continue reading

Sabotaged Release Race

In Sabotaged, Alaska’s iconic Iditarod sled race becomes a race against danger of a different kind for Kirra Jacobs and the McKenna family.

The actual Iditarod race doesn’t start for another 22 days (you can view the official website here), but I thought it would be fun to have our own competition here on the blog. Whether you’re a long-time McKenna fan who wants to help promote the series or a newcomer to Dani Pettrey’s suspense novels, here are some fun “checkpoints” to celebrate Sabotaged’s release.


The Grand Prize winner will receive a BHP suspense package, including the entire Alaskan Courage series, Deadly Echoes by Nancy Mehl, and an autographed hardcover copy of Unspoken by Dee Henderson. And, just for fun, a $20 Starbucks gift card so you can drink something warm while reading to keep the winter chill away.

Three second prize winners will receive a copy of Sabotaged (or Submerged, the first in the series, if they prefer).

Wouldn't these books look great on your shelf? (Or a friend's if you already own them!)

Wouldn’t these books look great on your shelf? (Or a friend’s if you already own them!)

To enter: the only thing you have to do to enter the race is comment on this blog post with name of your favorite book in the Alaskan Courage series. (I know, I know…it’s an impossible question.)

However, the more checkpoints you complete, the more chances you’ll have to win. Here are the categories you’ll find in the base camp entry form at the end of the blog post:

Checkpoint One: Visit Dani’s Sabotaged Pinterest board. If you have a Pinterest account, pin the book cover on one of your boards! If you don’t, enter in the form what Russian item comes into play in this story (a picture of it is pinned on the board).

Checkpoint Two: Share on Facebook which McKenna character you get from this quiz. (There’s a social media share feature at the end of it so you can pass it along to all your reader friends!)

Checkpoint Three: Visit this contest or this interview for Sabotaged on The Christian Manifesto and comment on one of the posts. (If you want to enter the giveaway while you’re there, that’s great too!)

Checkpoint Four: Comment on or share a post from Dani’s author Facebook page. (Make sure you’ve “liked” it too!)


This “base camp” entry form will be open until the end of February 18! Be sure to enter and spread the word to your friends—the race is on!

Base Camp Entry Form

Reading Adventures: February Bethany House Books

Most of us probably wouldn’t want to be on the run from a killer in real life. Ditto for being trapped in the wilderness, fighting for survival, or having to make a heartrending choice between family obligations and true love.

But we do enjoy reading about those things.

Maybe you’ve been snowed in for a while now, or maybe you’re sending beach pictures to unfortunate relatives farther north, but one thing is for sure: it’s a great month for some new reads! We have lots going on here at Bethany House this February, including these three titles that we get to share with readers for the first time. Take a look, and be sure to find out more by clicking on the book covers!

BHP_Sabotaged_Keyline02.inddIt’s time to say goodbye to the McKenna family in Sabotaged, the last in the ALASKAN COURAGE series by Dani Pettrey. From page one, you’ll find yourself caught up in the excitement of the Iditarod race…and the peril going on during it! Be sure to check out the Heart of Adventure sweepstakes happening right now—there are some great prizes!


Read an excerpt here!


Deadly EchoesAnother page-turning romantic suspense novel we have coming out this month is Deadly Echoes. Nancy Mehl does a great job of bringing you right into the supposedly safe town of Sanctuary—where many people are hiding from danger that somehow finds them anyway, including an unsolved murder that seems to be repeating itself. And there’s a fun giveaway to go along with this one too!


Read an excerpt here!


Where Trust LiesIf you like your stories to take you back in time, enjoy the latest from Janette Oke and her daughter Laurel Oke Logan, Where Trust Lies. There are plenty of secrets, and maybe even a few people who are not just as they appear, though this story is much more historical romance than suspense. (Plus, the books in this series are companions to the Hallmark series When Calls the Heart—fun!)


Read an excerpt here!


How would you finish this sentence: “We read because….”

Prayer for Authors: February 2015

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 February:

Nancy Mehl
Janette Oke
Laurel Oke Logan
Dani Pettrey

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.

Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known.” — Habakkuk 3:1, NIV

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For knowledge of God’s will, both in the authors’ careers and their personal lives.
  • For the stories that are going out into the world to find readers who need reminders of the truth.
  • For a sense of purpose that isn’t dependent on circumstances or external feedback, but on God and what he says about our identity.

As always, I’m so grateful for you all taking a few moments this Sunday to pray for our authors (and others in your life who you’d like to ask God’s blessing on).