RITA Finalists Giveaway

Last weekend, Romance Writers of America unveiled their list of RITA finalists, and Bethany House books made a great showing!

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To highlight the books that made it onto the (very prestigious) award shortlist, we’re hosting a giveaway of them on the blog. Find out a little bit about them below.

A Noble Masquerade by Kristi Ann Hunter

Kristi Ann Hunter is an expert on all things Regency—check out her Pinterest for a board of dresses worthy of any Jane-Austen-era ball. Her debut novel, A Noble Masquerade, was nominated both in the Inspirational Romance category and the First Novel category!

A Noble Masquerade
Lady Miranda Hawthorne secretly longs to be bold. But she is mortified when her brother’s new valet accidentally mails her private thoughts to a duke she’s never met—until he responds. As Miranda tries to sort out her growing feelings for two men, she inadvertently uncovers secrets that will put more than her heart at risk.

A Love Like Ours by Becky Wade

Becky Wade’s former Marine Jake Porter is the hunky hero of A Love Like Ours, in her Porter family series. If you just can’t get enough of Becky Wade’s love stories, check out this exclusive preview of Her One and Only, releasing next month!

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When Jake hires Lyndie James, an old childhood friend, to exercise his Thoroughbreds, he is surprised to discover that her tender-hearted, fearless nature affects him just as profoundly as it does his horses. Slowly, Lyndie begins to tear down the walls he’s built around his heart, but his fears and regrets still linger. Will Jake ever be able to love Lyndie like she deserves, or is his heart too shattered to mend?

Toward the Sunrise by Elizabeth Camden

On to the BHP nominated title in the novella category. Basically this is a giveaway where everyone wins something, because you can download your copy of the fabulous Toward the Sunrise for free! (We’re including Elizabeth’s full-length print book, Until the Dawn in the actual giveaway as well.) You can download it here onto an ereader or your computer.

Toward the Sunrise

Just shy of graduating from a women’s medical college, Julia Broeder makes a rash decision that results in her expulsion. With few choices, she pleads for help from Ashton Carlyle, the Vandermark family attorney whose job is to take care of loyal employees like her family. As they work together, Julia and Ashton encounter revelations, adventure, and romance.

Also, congratulations to Raela Schoenherr, who edited all three titles! (You can read an interview with her about what BHP looks for in authors here.)

As someone who read and loved all three of these stories, I can confidently say that the judges of the RITA had good taste! Cheering these ladies on—so proud that your hard work has been recognized in this way!

We’re giving away a copy of each of these titles to two different winners. To enter the giveaway, comment on the post below with an answer to this question: what makes a book one you would re-read multiple times? Winners will be notified on Monday, April 4 by a reply to their comment.

Four Book Rating Scales That Should Exist (But Don’t)

Retail sites and reader communities are all about star ratings. Which is fine. It’s an easy way for people to tell at a glance how much you enjoyed a book. But sometimes this scale is a bit too generic. Too…ordinary. If you want to really stand out, try ranking a book by the following scales:

The Kleenex Rating

All Bethany House books end with hope (not necessarily a perfect happy ending), but oh, can there ever be some sad moments in between! There’s something about a good cry while reading that is a perfect tension reliever. Whether you’re mourning a beloved character’s death, or just sympathizing with a heroine who is experiencing a similar struggle to what you’re going through, novels have a strong power to influence our emotions. I think the last Bethany House book that made me cry was From the Start by Melissa Tagg. (Yes, it’s a romantic comedy, but there’s one moment where I lost it…if you’ve read it, you can probably guess which one.)

Mourn

This rating, in my mind, would include the number of tissues you went through while reading, which would correspond to the number of sad moments in the book. (Unless there was a really tragically sad moment that took more than one Kleenex.) Whether tears of joy count for this can be left up to your discretion.

The Theme Park Thrill Scale

I’m stealing this one directly from Disney World rides. To ensure that you’re aware of the intensity of a particular ride (without listening to the scream level outside of it), Disney helpfully categorizes their rides, and I think the same categories can apply well to books.

“Fun for Everyone”: A great story, loveable characters…and nothing that will scare you. These are for the people who like the focus to stay on the relationships and would rather not be terrified along the way.

“Wild but Mild”: You can still probably read these late at night without consequences, but there’s a suspense/thriller angle to the story that will keep you turning pages. (I’d include historical books with a mystery element, like Roseanna M. White’s Ladies of the Manor series.)

“Thrillers”: Hang on for plot twists and a roller coaster of suspense and emotions as characters are put in jeopardy. There may be violent situations, unsolved crimes, and bad guys lurking around every corner. (Insert every Dani Pettrey book here.)

“WHAT?” Moment Count

This is a numeric value exactly equal to the number of times you asked, “WHAT?” while reading a book. This could be astonishment at a new revelation, anger at the unbelievable stunts pulled by an incredibly narcissistic villain (shout out to Someone Like You for bringing this out in me), or giddy excitement by a character’s reaction to something. Obviously, a good mystery like Dressed for Death will have plenty of these, but even character-driven women’s fiction or historical romance should make you react emotionally to what’s going on.

Scoville (Romance) Heat Units

Okay, fine, the original scale was determined to measure the heat of peppers. But we can adapt it for our purposes, right?

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If you’re measuring the romance as a whole or just the hero in particular, it’s good to know if you’ll be reading something bell pepper bland, chipotle spicy, or habanero hot!

Any other scales come to mind, readers? (If you’re a blogger/reviewer and use a creative scale of your own, feel free to tell us about it!)

Ask BHP: How Do Two Authors Co-Write a Book?

This month’s question in our Ask Bethany House series is about the early part of the writing process, often before editors work on a manuscript: “How do authors co-author a book?”

Just like you won’t get the same answer if you ask two different authors how they write a solo novel, the process for co-writing varies widely. To get a comprehensive answer, I chatted with three pairs of collaborators about their recent novels.

CoWrite

Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse usually work together in the brainstorming process, then trade off the manuscript for next stages. To start out, Tracie writes a long, detailed synopsis, then Kim writes a rough first draft. Tracie takes over to add sections and make changes to the plot, and then Kim and Tracie exchange it a few more times for final edits before turning in the completed manuscript.

Of their early brainstorming sessions, Kim says, “In emails we will change the color of our font for each response so we can follow the flow of ideas. Each book, we’ve had about forty pages of notes once I print them all out!” Their latest co-written novel is Beyond the Silence.

Beverly Lewis and her husband Dave approached their co-writing process differently for Child of Mine: while they also brainstormed and edited together, Beverly wrote all of the sections from the point of view of the heroine, and Dave wrote the sections from the point of view of the hero. One of the central characters is an Amish nanny, appealing to Beverly’s fans, but the story overall was more of a family drama with a mystery threaded throughout—and more than a few plot twists, something Beverly credits Dave for adding to the novel.

In 2014, Janette Oke came out of retirement to write a new series, Return to the Canadian West, with her daughter, Laurel Oke Logan. It follows the characters of the Hallmark series When Calls the Heart, though not the plot of the episodes.

When I asked them what they enjoyed most about working as a mother-daughter team, Janette said, “First of all, it gave me the wonderful excuse to spend more time with Laurel—which I always enjoy. It is always interesting how working together encourages and stimulates creativity. Ideas feed ideas. A dimension of fun is added to the task of writing.”

And from Laurel, “I definitely also enjoyed more visits and phone calls with Mom, but also a chance to work through the creative process with such a successful writer. I particularly like the way she develops her characters.”

There are probably many more processes that could be used for writing a book with another person. In some ways, it’s easier, in others, much more challenging. The end result of a great collaboration is always the same, though: happy readers!

What’s a co-written book (recent or classic) that you loved?

The Importance of Leaving Book Reviews

Leaving a review on Goodreads, Amazon, or another retail site? First of all, thank you so much! This is one of the most useful things you can do to promote a book you love. Here are a few reasons why:

  • The more reviews a book has, the more often retails sites like Amazon and B&N will recommend the book to others and feature it in searches.
  • Potential buyers will use the number of five-star reviews as a quick snapshot of whether a book is worth their money.
  • Inclusion in an ebook promo newsletter like BookBub can skyrocket an author’s backlist title. And what do those sites look at when deciding which books to feature? You guessed it: reviews!
  • In a 2015 survey of Christian fiction readers, 16% said the main reason they heard about/purchased a book was because of online reviews. Based on the number surveyed, that’s over 250 readers. It adds up! (Note that 33% of the readers surveyed regularly left reviews for Christian fiction books…let’s raise that percentage!)

If you feel intimidated by the pressure to craft the perfect review, just know that even a simple five-star rating and a “This book was great! Can’t wait to read more from this author!” is helpful.

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But if you want to go the extra mile, here are some tips for writing an awesome book review. Continue reading

Prayer for Authors: March 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 March:

Julianna Deering
Beverly Lewis
Siri Mitchell
Tracie Peterson
Jen Turano

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.

This is what the Lord says: ‘Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the Lord.”– Jeremiah 9:23-24, NIV

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For clarity and focus on writing or marketing projects, even when surrounded by other distractions.
  • For the ability to respond to unexpected stress or criticism with grace.
  • For the words of these stories to reach the people who need them most.

We appreciate all you do to support our authors, but most of all, we appreciate your prayers for them. Thanks so much for joining with us today!

Behind the Scenes of Our March Releases

Just in time for spring reading, take a look at these five page-turning novels (and lovely covers). If you’d like to “page through” the opening chapters, click on the covers to read an excerpt of each title. I’ve also included a bonus “fun fact” from each author regarding a bit of research trivia that worked its way into the novel to give you a glimpse into the writing process. Enjoy, readers!

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Playing the Part

Jen Turano: “Washington Square Park, where Mrs. Abigail Hart resides in her completely proper brownstone in Playing the Part, lies on top of thousands of bodies. That area of New York City was once a potter’s field, but when someone decided it would make a lovely spot for the military to practice their drills on, instead of relocating the bodies, they were simply buried and landscaped over. Houses were eventually built on top of some of those bodies, and that’s where the bodies remain to this very day.”

AtonementThe Atonement

Beverly Lewis: “Amish women can bake 8-10 pies simultaneously in their ovens. Which means one busy woman can supply the 40 pies necessary to feed one church district at the common meal, following Preaching service, as Martie Zook does (with her sister Lucy’s help) in The Atonement.”

Treasure ConcealedA Treasure Concealed

Tracie Peterson: “As I wrote A Treasure Concealed, I did careful research on gemstones, particularly in the setting of the novel, Montana. Sapphires can be found all over the state, but the only place in the world where Yogo sapphires are found is in the central area of Montana. These are particularly beautiful sapphires that generally have a cornflower-blue color, although there have been darker Yogos and even violet colors.”

Dressed for DeathDressed for Death

Julianna Deering: “Part of the mystery of Dressed for Death involves drug smuggling. Back in the 1930s, as now, there were people more than willing to profit from the import and sale of cocaine. In today’s society, we get a very mixed message about drug use. In real life, the consequences are often far-reaching and long-lasting. Meanwhile, drug smugglers and dealers grow rich off their hopelessly addicted customers. In any era, it’s a tragedy.

Flirtation WalkFlirtation Walk

Siri Mitchell: “The title of Flirtation Walk refers to a path along the northeastern edge of the West Point military reservation that overlooks the Hudson River. It has a reputation as West Point’s ‘Lover’s Lane’ and is just as popular now as it was in the nineteenth century. It’s strictly off limits to visitors, however; in order to walk that lovely path, you have to be escorted by a cadet.”

Just for fun, we’ll have a giveaway on the blog—your choice of one of these five titles! To enter, simply comment below with an answer to this question: what is your favorite part about the coming of spring? Winners will be notified by a response to their comment by noon Central on Monday, March 7.