2016 Reading Challenge from Bethany House

Tomorrow is a brand new year, and what better way to celebrate than by making some reading goals? This list we created for you might even stretch you to pick up a book you might not have noticed otherwise. Join us and make 2016 a year for reading!

Note that, while this is obviously just for fun and there are no “rules,” we recommend that you try reading books that you’ve never read before (except, of course, for the category that specifies that you’ve read the book before).


Of course, you’re not limited to Bethany House novels by any means. (The 100-year-old book might make that a bit tricky.) But since those are the ones I’m most familiar with, I can give you a few recommendations. The Shunning by Beverly Lewis (and the other books in the series) is a Hallmark Channel movie, as is When Calls the Heart by Janette Oke. A few series-enders from 2015 include Sabotaged by Dani Pettrey, Fire and Ice by Mary Connealy, and Love Everlasting by Tracie Peterson.

If you want a book that lets you travel to another place, take a look at this setting list for 2014 and 2015 titles, and you can also search those titles for your favorite things. (My list included Until the Dawn, because sunrises are the best, but yours will obviously be different.)

For an easily-scannable list of main character names, here’s a post from the archives with some names to choose from…maybe you’ll find your best friend among them.

Now it’s your turn to make a recommendation! Readers, do you know of any books you enjoyed that would fit one of these categories? Authors, do these categories fit any of your books? (Or you can just list your main characters for anyone who needs to find their best friend’s name!)

God With Us


It’s Christmas Eve.

Maybe you’re a bundle of anticipation, borrowing child-like excitement from your younger family members, and everything is holiday cheer and peppermint lattes as you wait for tomorrow to arrive.

Maybe you’re a bit frazzled, making a mental list of off-limits topics for your family dinner, rushing to get the last details just right, and hoping the dog won’t knock over a candle and burn down your Christmas tree.

Maybe you’re just tired—tired of the hype and the hubbub that fails to drown out the ache you feel for someone you love who won’t be here to celebrate this year, wanting to believe the words of the carols about peace on earth but not quite there right now.

Wherever you find yourself on this day before Christmas, I hope you can take a moment to slow down and remember why we celebrate: not just that Jesus came, but that Jesus is present right now, in all the chaos of the holiday season, with the imperfect, stressed-out people who he loves.

Sometimes I think we lose the present-tense of Christmas. We translate it, if not in words, in our attitudes, to something that happened once upon a time, long ago. “Hark the herald angels sang.” “Unto us a child was born.” “All was calm, all was bright.” And Christmas becomes a day to celebrate a one-time event back in Bethlehem.

It is that, of course. That’s why we read the story.

But the story isn’t over.

The beautiful thing about Jesus’ name—Immanuel—is that it means “God With Us.” Jesus came in the past and will come in the future, but he’s also here now, for those of us living in the in-between.

For the ones whose To-Do lists have taken over, the ones who will scream if one more kid sings PA-RUM-PA-PUM-PUM while banging on the nearest available “drum,” the ones who aren’t going to a church service because so-called Christians have misrepresented their Lord, the ones who are filled with gratitude or struggling with doubt—the young, the old, the joyful, the just plain worn out. He came for all of us.

It’s Christmas Eve. Jesus came, and he’s still here, even when the world seems very, very dark. God has not left us without hope. His promises—all of them—are still true.

It’s Christmas Eve, and God is with us.

Celebrating the Season with Christmas Fiction!

There are very few things I enjoy more than a good Christmas story, and this year, I’m so excited to tell you about two Christmas tales by Bethany House authors! Becky Wade concluded the love story of two of her secondary characters in her short story, “The Proposal,” and Melissa Tagg used her semi-autobiographical crush on a cover model to inspire the plot of her novella, One Enchanted Christmas.

These are both available in ebook form (click on the titles above or the covers at the end of the post) for less than the cost of a fancy peppermint-mocha-latte. (And side-note: I loved both of them!) Read them, send them to a friend as an early “stocking stuffer” gift (all you need is your friend’s email address, the click “Buy as Gift” on your favorite e-retailer), and enjoy a sneak peek inside both stories in my chat with the authors.


Amy: Give me a “teaser” for the plot of your Christmas story that’s the length of a tweet.

Becky: “The Proposal” just might include singing firefighters (why yes…you read that right), a cookie party, romance, and lots of Christmas cheer.

Melissa: 1 mystery author with a crazy crush + 1 guy who will do anything to save his family + 1 charming small town = One Enchanted Christmas.

Amy: Perfect. If I weren’t already intrigued, those teasers would do it! Now, if you were buying a Christmas present for the couple in your story, what would it be and why? (You can get them each an individual present if you want.)

Becky: I’d buy them a night of babysitting! Why? Because Amber’s son Jayden is a handful! I’m guessing that Amber and Will would love a romantic evening out together.

Melissa: Oh, this is so fun! My main characters are a mystery writer named Maren and a small-town Iowa guy named Drew.

I would give Maren piano lessons. There’s a scene in the story when she’s checking out this antique piano in Drew’s house and mentions that she barely plays—never really had a chance to learn. And frankly, the girl needs a hobby besides teaching and writing. LOL!

Drew, no question…I’d give him a coat. Because the guy never wears a coat! And he lives in Iowa! You just don’t walk around without a coat in the dead of winter in Iowa. Except, he’s kinda stubborn so the chances of him actually wearing it may be slim to none. But still. Continue reading

Ask Bethany House: What Does a Line Editor Do?

Welcome to the last Ask BHP post of 2015! We’ve already talked to one of Bethany House’s copy editors, Elisa. This week, we have Karen, one of our fiction line editors, on the blog to talk about her part in the process of getting great books into your hands. (Be sure to check out the rest of the Ask Bethany House series covering common questions readers ask us.)


Hopefully when you’re done with this series, you’ll know that there’s much more to editing than fixing grammatical mistakes. But this is still amusing.

Amy: How would you explain your job to someone not familiar with the publishing industry?

Karen: As a line (also known as developmental or substantive) editor, my main responsibility is to work with fiction authors after the first draft of their contracted manuscript is submitted. Often with input from other editors and reviewers, I compile an editorial-comment document, outlining strengths of the story as well as areas we believe need to be revised and fine-tuned. The author and I use that document to discuss revision possibilities and objectives, and after the author had submitted the rewritten manuscript, I complete the first edit.

At this first-edit stage, though many of our concerns have been addressed during the author’s rewrite, I edit the story to enhance big-picture elements like pacing, clarity, plot and character arcs, character development, etc. Though most books receive a copy edit, I also correct/revise typos, grammar, writing flow, and the like, if I notice them.

I am very collaborative and much prefer working through the more significant editorial issues with an author rather than making the decision/revision independently. Of course I make numerous editorial/revision decisions on my own in every manuscript (always taking care to stay true to the author’s vision and voice), but I often find the best solution for larger concerns comes from collaboration (both with the author and with other editors).

Fiction line editors at Bethany House are also responsible for managing each book project through later revisions and corrections from proofreaders and the author, either entering the corrections ourselves or, once the manuscript has been paged, combining the corrections and sending them to typesetters/designers—who enter the corrections in the paged book—and then making sure the revisions have been correctly entered.

Amy: What happens after the work you do with the manuscript?

Karen: After I work with the author on the first edit, the manuscript is copy-edited, proofread (usually three different proofreaders), and reviewed twice by the author—first as a Word document and then as Paged galleys (a representation of what the actual book pages will look like). Once all the corrections have been made, checked, and checked again, the book is off to the printer. The process is more complicated than that, but those are the essentials.

Amy: What is one of your favorite parts of what you do, and why?

Karen: There are so many things I enjoy about my job, but I think the most exciting and fulfilling aspect of my job is working with every author to enhance the wonderful story they have already created. Though the stories are theirs, and theirs alone, I like to compare myself to a loving aunt, standing alongside and supporting proud “author parents” as they send their “book babies” out into the world. I guess that is a bit corny, but it is exciting for me.

Amy: That’s not corny at all! (I always think of myself as the teachers of those book babies—I have several at once when they’re a little more mature and their “author parents” have sent them out into the world.) So, any words of advice or encouragement for those who might want to become editors someday?

Meet Karen...she's the best!

Meet Karen…she’s the best!

Of course, schooling experience is helpful—often whether applicants have schooling in a clearly related subject area is a natural selection cutoff for potential employers. And any publishing/editing/writing craft classes you can take or experience you can get is beneficial. But more than that . . . read, read, read—anything and everything, but especially from the publishing area you are hoping to get a job in someday.

It is not enough for you to simply like a book, or dislike it. Analyze the books you read, figure out what is working and what is not working—why, and how could they be improved? Being analytical, whether by nature or through practice, and learning to communicate concerns clearly and graciously, is very helpful skill for people interested in becoming a line/substantive editor. I like to think such a trait allows me to effectively help the authors I work with create more logical, intriguing plots and consistent, compelling characters.

If you are interested in a job with Bethany House (and I expect this is true of any publisher), you can’t have read too many of our books—it is a plus when you can name favorite books you have read and articulate what you have appreciated about them. And read a broad range of books, even genres you are not particularly drawn to. In most publishing houses, there are many genres you might work with. We all have our genre preferences, but we don’t often get to focus solely on our favorites. Analyze what works in every genre, and learn to appreciate what individual genres have to offer.

Before I started working at Bethany House, other than a few of the classics, I had read few fantasy/speculative books and had little interest in that genre. But soon after starting at BHP, I read Kathy Tyers’ Firebird series and was hooked, and since then I have been blessed to edit several fantastic fantasy/speculative books and series. Learn to appreciate well-drawn characters, compelling plots, and captivating writing regardless of the genre a book is categorized by and your potential as a valuable asset at any publishing house will increase.

Thanks so much, Karen! To get some practice with those analyzing skills, tell us about a book you loved and one specific reason why you loved it!

Prayer for Authors: December 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 December:

Elizabeth Camden
Regina Jennings
Julie Klassen
Delia Parr

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.

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” – Ephesians 5:1-2, NIV

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For an extra measure of focus and perseverance in a very busy season.
  • For those who receive one of their books as a gift, that the message and story would be a blessing.
  • For peaceful moments to reflect on the meaning of the advent season.

Once again, thank you so much for joining together with us here at Bethany House to pray for these authors and others!

A Christmas Gift Guide for Readers

If you have relatives and friends who might need to know what to get you for Christmas, I made this for you! (Tell me there are other people who think like this. I can’t be the only one, can I?) Share it on social media or print and post it on the fridge to give loved ones a subtle hint at what you’d like to see under the tree this year.

Christmas Book Gift Flow Chart

Of course, if you’re looking for book recommendations, of course I’d recommend any of December books. Or any of our newly released fiction titles. But I’m a little biased. (Click on the covers below to learn more.)

At Love's BiddingWhen Miranda rashly buys an auction house—then learns it deals in cattle, not antiques—she is at a loss for what to do…and so is the handsome manager.

Midwife's ChoiceAs Martha Cade struggles with the challenges of being a mother, a midwife, and a woman, she discovers the power of hope and the meaning of faith.

PaintersDaughter_mck.inddAfter the man she loves abruptly sails for Italy, Sophie Dupont’s future is in jeopardy. Wesley left her in dire straits, and she has nowhere to turn—until Captain Stephen Overtree comes looking for his wayward brother. He offers a solution to her dilemma, but matters of the heart are not so simply solved.

UntiltheDawn_mck.inddWhen Sophie van Riijn is caught exploring an abandoned mansion, she quarrels with the long-absent, brooding owner—and old secrets come to light.

What book is on your wish list this year, readers?