Summer Stacks Contest!

If you’re like us, you have quite a to-be-read pile…so why not have some fun with it for a little photo contest?

How to Enter: take an artistic picture of a stack of books – either ones you have yet to read, or ones you’ve read and loved! Then share it on Facebook or Instagram, tagging Bethany House Fiction and including the hashtag #SummerStacksContest. At least one of the books must be a Bethany House book. (Look for our logo on the spine to check!) The rest can be anything you like: any publisher, genre, or even nonfiction.

No social media? No problem. Send your picture to alokkesmoe@bethanyhouse.com, and I’ll include your entry too. The point, though, is to recommend some favorite books to others, so if you chose this option, don’t forget to spread a little love for those books by word of mouth.

Next Thursday, August 20th, we’ll select and contact four random winners plus a BHP’s choice winner to receive their choice of any two of our July or August new releases.

Want some examples? Here are some #SummerStacksContest photos we featured on our own Instagram account. They’re also the books you can chose from if you win!

What are you waiting for? Get started!

August 2020 New Releases

Wow, can you believe that August is already here? As you enjoy some relaxation this summer month, we hope you’ll bring a book along, and we’d love for you to check out our four fabulous new releases! Whether you want a contemporary love story with a dash of wit or a quilting-inspired Amish tale with a historical storyline, if you’re craving a Regency romance with an aristocratic flair or a page-turning suspense novel, we’ve got just the story for you. Click on the cover to read an excerpt. We hope you enjoy them!

 

Love and a Little White Lie by Tammy L. Gray
A State of Grace Novel

Plot Summary: After hitting rock bottom, January decides she has nothing to lose in working at her aunt’s church—while hiding a lack of faith. A minor deception until she meets the church’s guitarist and sparks fly. Can she avoid disaster—especially when a handsome landscape architect has an annoying ability to push her to deal with feelings she’d rather keep buried?

 

Piecing It All Together by Leslie Gould
Plain Patterns #1

Plot Summary: Dumped by her fiancé a week before the wedding, Savannah Mast flees California for her Amish grandmother’s farm, where she becomes unexpectedly entangled in the search for a missing Amish girl. When she discovers her childhood friend, Tommy Miller, is implicated as a suspect, she must do all she can to find the Amish girl and clear his name.

 

Vying for the Viscount by Kristi Ann Hunter
Hearts on the Heath

Plot Summary: When a strange man appears to be stealing horses at the neighboring estate, Bianca Snowley jumps to their rescue. And when she discovers he’s the new owner, she can’t help but be intrigued—but romance is unfeasible when he proposes they help secure spouses for each other. Will they see everything they’ve wanted has been there all along before it’s too late?

Minutes to Die by Susan Sleeman
Homeland Heroes #2

Plot Summary: Terrorists have been smuggled into the country intent on unleashing a deadly attack, and FBI Agent Kiley Dawson and ICE Agent Evan Bowers are charged with taking it down—only, Kiley blames Evan for the death of her former partner and can’t be in the same room as him. As threats ensue, the two are pushed to the breaking point in a race to save countless lives.

 

Are any of these on your TBR list, readers?

Prayer for Authors: August 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 Lokkesmoe, 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 August:

Leslie Gould
Tammy L. Gray
Kristi Ann Hunter
Susan Sleeman

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.

Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken.”—Psalm 62:5-6 (NLT)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For productive writing sessions in the midst of busy life schedules.
  • For God to teach them lessons and give them spiritual insights that they can include in future stories.
  • For struggling bookstores and libraries who are facing limited sales and health concerns for employees.

It’s always so great to know that we have a community of readers willing to pray for these authors. Thanks for joining us!

Beach Reads: Books with the Ocean on the Cover

It’s summertime, and while you may not be going to the beach this year, all it takes is a book to bring the beach to you! There are several out there (because who wouldn’t want the ocean in the background if it makes sense for the story?), but here are a few of our recent ocean covers:

 

The Killing Tide by Dani Pettrey

Since the series focuses on a Coast Guard Investigation team, an ocean close-up makes perfect sense, and the way it’s shown in this dual-exposure image is breathtaking.

 

Set the Stars Alight by Amanda Dykes

The ocean against a starry night sky framed by rocky cliffs, with the added bonus of a mysterious ship, makes this cover stand out, especially since a nautical mystery is at the heart of this tale.

 

Shelter of the Most High by Connilyn Cossette

The soft colors and muted lines of this cover make it so I can practically smell the sea salt with our main character as she stands by an unusual backdrop for biblical fiction.

Flight of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse

There is so much drama to this ocean with the crashing waves and windblown hair! Definitely the most epic-looking ocean in this lot, appropriate for the fantasy genre.

The Ebb Tide by Beverly Lewis

An Amish woman in a very non-traditional setting lends this simple, elegant cover an intriguing angle, evoking the charming Cape May setting at a glance.

Verity by Lisa T. Bergren

Since the hero of this story is a ship’s captain, the heroine’s look back at a prominent port in the background of this colonial island-set book is perfect to represent the story.

How about you, readers? Can you think of a novel you’ve enjoyed with a prominent view of the ocean?

Ask BHP: How Can New Authors Stand Out?

Every year, we get some great questions to our Ask BHP Survey from aspiring authors who follow us on social media, including this one: “I wonder about the process of finding new voices. How does an unpublished author stand out when you probably see hundreds of proposals?”

For context, I’m on our marketing team, so I only see book proposals at one of the last stages in the “will I get a contract?” process: publication board, or pub board. By that point, the manuscript has already impressed one of our acquisition editors, been reviewed by some test readers, and gotten the thumbs up from the editorial team. At pub board, the editor has to convince marketers like me, sales team members, and executives that the project is worth investing in. We talk not just about literary merit, but things like sales history, expected print quantities, and cold, hard cash.

Pretty intimidating, huh? So I completely understand the desire to stand out in the crowded market of traditional publishing. There’s lots of advice I could give here, including:

  • Show that you understand the publishing market (know your terms, join writing groups/associations, make your book proposal professional).
  • Have a well-thought out marketing section, which can include endorsements, promotions, platform numbers, local media or book events, and launch team efforts.
  • Make sure you’ve taken time to perfect the craft of writing so those sample chapters absolutely sparkle.

While all of those things are important, something I’ve thought about recently when pitching our 2020 debut novels for reviews and other media coverage is that publishers (and readers) are looking for projects that are both familiar and new. Let me explain what I mean by that.

Familiar: This is what makes your book something that you can demonstrate people will want to buy and read…because people are buying and reading stories similar to it. An editor picks up on these aspects of the story to pitch it to the often-skeptical sales team. They’ll say things like, “This book has a similar theme/style/setting to [famous bestseller]” or “Readers who enjoy [trope or genre] will love this” or “This one has a strong Hallmark Christmas movie feel.” Your proposal will need to make some connections to entertainment that your target audience is loving.

Because of this, as a brand-new author, now might not be the time to break every rule/preference possible in an attempt to be different. Your Bronze Age superhero novel set in Antarctica with haiku chapter openers from the point of view of a talking elephant might cross the line from being unique to being un-sellable.

New: It’s also easy to identify a manuscript that tried too hard to play things safe. Whether the author is unconsciously imitating favorite authors or intentionally adding in time-tested plots and reactions, it’s possible for a story to be too familiar. Characters are often predictable and even boring, and the ending, while probably happy, falls flat.

In contrast, a project that has a few unique aspects is one that attracts our attention—if we think it will attract readers’ attention. Doing something different just to be different—“In my contemporary romance, all of the main characters die at the end!”—isn’t the goal. Doing something different that, mentioned on the back cover of the book, would make a reader intrigued enough to read the book is.

If all of that is still too abstract, let me explain by using the examples from the four debut novels we’re publishing in 2020. (Also a note that this is higher than our average number of debuts; the number is usually 1-2.) These books all had other factors in their favor, including strong writing and savvy authors. But from my point of view, here’s what each novel brought to the table in terms of familiar and new, points that were very clear in their book proposals.

A Mosaic of Wings by Kimberly Duffy

Familiar: A historical novel with a romance plot, the heroine is a strong woman ahead of her time

New: Over half of the book is set in India (a place the author loves), the heroine is an entomologist (studies and sketches insects), potential for other India-connected novels to follow this one

 

The Sowing Season by Katie Powner (releases October 2020)

Familiar: Contemporary fiction, addresses themes of growing older and growing up

New: Shows an inter-generational friendship between neighbors (a retired farmer and a teenage girl, who are the point-of-view characters), strong writing voice

 

Things We Didn’t Say by Amy Lynn Green (releases November 2020)

Familiar: Set during WWII, a popular era for historical fiction.

New: Epistolary (told entirely in letters), about the little-known German POW camps in America during WWII, the romance subplot hero is a Japanese American training to be a spy/negotiator

 

The Dress Shop on King Street by Ashley Clark (releases December 2020)

Familiar: Dual-time where the contemporary characters try to solve a mystery of the past

New: Retro fashion theme and well-realized Southern setting, deeply relatable characters who have had their dreams delayed, both timelines are equally interesting

 

Remember, though, that your manuscript might have solidly hit on both familiar and new and still not find the publishing home you dreamed about. Sometimes our team turns down projects because the writing isn’t quite at the level we’d like to see, or because we have an author writing something similar in six months, or because the theological slant, genre, or tone just isn’t what we’re looking for at the moment.

That said, this is a great way to start—thinking about your story in a marketing mindset will help you know how to pitch it in meetings with editors and agents. Whether you’re wondering which idea to write next or how to present your completed manuscript in a proposal, try to find that balance between familiar and new.

Take a look at your bookshelf and find a book you’ve enjoyed recently. What about it fits into “familiar” and “new”?

Pandemic Reading Danger Levels

Everyone on the Internet seems to be posting charts and graphs meant to keep us safe from the latest outbreak. And I don’t know about you, but I just can’t relate to all of the activities they mention. Going to a party? Who has time now that my TBR pile is above my head…and growing? Going grocery shopping? Nope, the latest book mail just got dropped off on my porch. Watching a movie in the theater? Sorry, but the book is always better.

Because of this, I created a chart to help readers like me determine their risk level for various activities. I hope it helps you as we navigate these contagious waters.

(And yes, this is fully tongue-in-cheek. Shockingly, none of the books on my TBR stack are medical ones.)

May your 2020 continue to bring you many books and the social distancing required to read them all!

July 2020 New Releases

We can’t believe it’s already July, and we’re excited to introduce you to six new releases from Bethany House, all of them perfect for summer reading. You’ll meet everyone from a long-beloved matriarch to reoccurring series favorites to entirely new characters…and the people who inhabit these stories are ready to tell their tales. Get to know them by reading an opening excerpt when you click on the cover, and see what catches your eye!

Line by Line by Jennifer Delamere
Love Along the Wires #1

Plot Summary: Years of hard work enabled Douglas Shaw to escape a life of desperate poverty—and now he’s determined to marry into high society to prevent reliving his old circumstances. But when Alice McNeil, an unconventional telegrapher at his firm, raises the ire of a vindictive co-worker, he must choose between rescuing her reputation and the future he’s always planned.

Set the Stars Alight by Amanda Dykes

Plot Summary: Reeling from the loss of her parents, Lucie Clairmont discovers an artifact under the floorboards of their London flat, leading her to an old seaside estate. Aided by her childhood friend Dashel, a renowned forensic astronomer, they start to unravel a history of heartbreak, sacrifice, and love begun 200 years prior—one that may offer the healing each seeks.

 

The Crushing Depths by Dani Pettrey
Coastal Guardians #2

Plot Summary: When an accident claims the life of an oil-rig worker off the North Carolina coast, Coast Guard investigators Rissi Dawson and Mason Rogers are sent to take the case. But mounting evidence shows the death may not have been an accident at all, and they find themselves racing to discover the killer’s identity before he eliminates the threat they pose.

 

Love’s Mountain Quest by Misty M. Beller
Hearts of Montana #2

Plot Summary: After her son goes missing, Joanna Watson enlists Isaac Bowen—a man she prays has enough experience in the rugged country—to help. As they press on against the elements, they find encouragement in the tentative trust that grows between them, but whether it can withstand the danger and coming confrontation is far from certain in this wild, unpredictable land.

 

A Bride of Convenience by Jody Hedlund
The Bride Ships #3

Plot Summary: Upon discovering an abandoned baby, Pastor Abe Merivale joins efforts with Zoe Hart, one of the newly arrived bride-ship women, to care for the infant. With mounting pressure to find the baby a home, Abe offers his hand as Zoe’s groom. But after a hasty wedding, they soon realize their marriage of convenience is not so convenient after all.

 

A Blessing to Cherish by Lauraine Snelling

Plot Summary: After several years of widowhood and hardship, Ingeborg focuses on the good she’s been given while she watches her widowed stepson fall in love once again. But not everything is comfortable for Ingeborg; one of her dearest friendships is changing—and she will have to decide if her settled life is worth more to her than a future she hardly dares to imagine.

We’d love to know: what have you been reading this summer? (Fiction or nonfiction, your choice!)

Prayer for Authors: July 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 July:

Misty M. Beller
Jennifer Delamere
Amanda Dykes
Jody Hedlund
Dani Pettrey
Lauraine Snelling

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.

“One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”—Philippians 3:13-14 (ESV)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For endurance for pressing on, whether it’s through life trials or writing struggles.
  • For words and concepts from these novels to stick with readers and make them think.
  • For focus and the ability to know how to spend their time wisely.

Thanks for taking a few minutes out of your day to lift these authors, and others, up in prayer. We appreciate you more than we can say!

Dependence Day Giveaway!

Readers, I’d love to have you join me for a very special holiday tomorrow…Dependence Day!

What is Dependence Day, you ask? It’s a completely made-up holiday on July 3rd where we celebrate America’s former dependence on England. Strictly speaking, it’s less pining for the good ol’ days of British colonization and more about having an excuse to eat scones and drink tea, so if you’re an American, you can celebrate with your patriotism intact.

All that’s required is that you participate in some manner of vaguely British-themed activity, such as:

  • Using some Shakespearean insults.
  • Listening to the Beatles (or a more modern British band).
  • Planning a dream trip across the pond.
  • Searching the news for whatever the royal family is up to these days.
  • Watching Pride and Prejudice or anything BBC.
  • Reading a book set in England.

If that last one sounds perfect to you, we’ve got some great recommendations below for all you Anglophiles out there.

Set the Stars Alight by Amanda Dykes: Reeling from the loss of her parents, Lucie Clairmont discovers an artifact under the floorboards of their London flat, leading her to an old seaside estate. Aided by her childhood friend Dashel, a renowned forensic astronomer, they start to unravel a history of heartbreak, sacrifice, and love begun 200 years prior—one that may offer the healing each seeks.

The Bridge to Belle Island by Julie Klassen: While Benjamin investigates a mysterious death, evidence takes him to a remote island on the Thames. There, Isabelle is trapped by fear and has a recurring dream about a man’s death. Or is it a memory? When a murder brings everyone under suspicion, and the search for truth brings secrets to light, she realizes her island sanctuary will never be the same.

Line by Line by Jennifer Delamere: Years of hard work enabled Douglas Shaw to escape a life of desperate poverty—and now he’s determined to marry into high society to prevent reliving his old circumstances. But when Alice McNeil, an unconventional telegrapher at his firm, raises the ire of a vindictive co-worker, he must choose between rescuing her reputation and the future he’s always planned.

Vying for the Viscount by Kristi Ann Hunter (releases August 2020): When a strange man appears to be stealing horses at the neighboring estate, Bianca Snowley jumps to their rescue. And when she discovers he’s the new owner, she can’t help but be intrigued—but romance is unfeasible when he proposes they help secure spouses for each other. Will they see everything they’ve wanted has been there all along before it’s too late?

The Number of Love by Roseanna M. White: In the midst of the Great War, Margot De Wilde spends her days deciphering intercepted messages. But after a sudden loss, her world is turned upside down. Lieutenant Drake Elton returns wounded from the field, followed by a destructive enemy. Immediately smitten with Margot, how can Drake convince a girl who lives entirely in her mind that sometimes life’s answers lie in the heart?

To celebrate Dependence Day, we’re giving away the winner’s choice of one of the titles above. To enter, just comment with the answer to the question below: what would be a place in England you’d enjoy visiting? (Or have visited.) We’ll choose a winner next Thursday, July 9th.

Six Dangers of the Reading Life

Some might look at us readers tucked into our cozy armchairs or stretched out on our beach towels with a book in hand and think the book lover’s life is an easy one.

Oh, no. That’s where they’re wrong. If you’re a seasoned reader, I’m sure you’ve realized there are multiple pitfalls and perils that dog the reader’s every step—I mean, page. Here are a few of them, arranged in order of approximate danger level.

Papercuts

Oh, the indignity of that sharp slice of pain, when all you wanted to do was lovingly turn those beloved pages. It’s a wound that cuts deep, even though it cuts shallowly. This is especially common in suspenseful books, when you’re trying to turn pages quickly to see what happens next.

Tip for Combating This Danger: Apply a generous amount of self-pity, then blame your least favorite character in the novel for directly attacking you. This should dull the pain and allow you to move on. If this is a frequent peril, consider using an e-reader instead. Or wear gloves or a handful of thimbles.

Mild Disdain from Other Readers

You know who they are. They’re the ones who demand everyone think their book club pick was flawlessly brilliant. The ones who post scathing one-star reviews on your favorite books and tell you to your face how “predicable and trite” they are. The ones who brag about having completed 99 of the “100 Classic Novels to Read Before You Die” list…and they only haven’t gotten to Les Misérables because they’re working on their French so they can read it in the original language. If you venture into the bookish world, be warned: you’ll be sure to encounter these critics and naysayers and their superior looks.

Tip for Combating This Danger: Amazingly, if you simply don’t care what these readers think about you, your favorite author, or your go-to genre, they have no power to ruin your day. Poof. Gone. I mean, I’m all for challenging yourself and occasionally reading outside your comfort zone, but part of the beauty in the world is that we all have different tastes and preferences. There are books out there for anyone, but not every book is for everyone, and that’s more than okay; it’s great!

(Also, the disdainful readers just approved of the fact that I used a semi-colon. They like semi-colons.)

Spoilers

My sister informed me last week that she was reading a kids’ mystery to put in her classroom. When a new character was introduced, she saw, in the margin of a library book, a scrawled, “HE IS THE KIDNAPPER,” rendering the next two hundred pages useless. Can you imagine such dastardly devilry? And at such a young age! But it’s not only tiny troublemakers you have to watch out for here. Indiscreet Amazon reviews that dump the entire plot before your curious eyes, accidentally openings to the wrong page, and excitable friends who just can’t help themselves all fall into this category. Watch out, or you’ll tumble into the Abyss of Knowing, and you’ll never get out.

Tip for Combating This Danger: Pre-order books you don’t want spoiled, and then isolate yourself until you’ve turned past the last page as an extra precaution. A bunker would be nice, if available. And if you’re one of those deluded people who read the ending of a book first…I’m sorry, there’s no help for you.

Natural Forces

This is a broad category, encompassing everything from the force of gravity pulling your cracker crumbs into the binding of the book from which they will never escape to sudden rainstorms when you’re reading outside, forcing you to securely swaddle your book in your hammock and flee a mile back to your vehicle, soaking wet and completely bedraggled while the book remains dry. (If you think both of these are based on personal experience…you’re right.)

Tip for Combating This Danger: There are innumerable forces and factors that might try to keep you from your book or ruin your reading experience (carsickness on a road trip, an unsealed coffee cup lid, library pandemic shut-downs), so it’s hard to give a one-size-fits-all solution. The only advice I can give is: be vigilant. Threats to reading are everywhere.

Emotional Exhaustion

Whether you keep the tissue box handy because you’re reading a tear-jerker or just because you hate to say goodbye to beloved bookish friends, the best stories will sweep you up into the characters’ trials and triumphs…and sometimes leave you with a post-book emotional hangover.

Tip for Combating This Danger: Take a deep breath. Then share the book with a friend, gush about it online, thank the author, or otherwise transfer those emotions to the real world. Don’t bother reminding yourself that the characters and their worlds aren’t real; this is no fun and also probably won’t help.

Suffocation by Collapsed TBR Pile

You know how it goes. Your favorite author has a new release, so you order it. Your book club coordinator hands you the novel for next month. Your friend is just dying to talk to you about the latest thriller. A stunning cover practically leaps off the shelf at you when browsing at a bookstore. There’s that one movie adaptation, and of course you have to read the book first. And the next thing you know, the delivery driver knows you by first name and is friends with you on Goodreads, and your house looks like some kind of towering literary maze of madness. If you venture among the stacks of tomes, you could get crushed, especially if you try to pull out a title from the bottom. Will it ever all get read? Who can say?

Tip for Combating This Danger: Keep an emergency whistle around your neck so you can call for help if needed, or find some sort of reinforced steel supports to maintain your stacks of worthy novels. (What, did you think I was going to tell you to read the books you have before buying or checking out more? What do you think this guide is, a humor piece?)

 

Sometimes it feels like the whole world is trying to keep you from your book, but we know that true readers will prevail! Together, we can watch each other’s backs, fight against obstacles to reading, and finish “just one more chapter.”

We’re sure we forgot a few perils, reader. What do you think are the most dangerous parts of living in the book world?