The Five Stages of Dealing With Your TBR Pile

Any experienced reader knows the lingering stress of the TBR (To-Be-Read) Pile. As someone who is a reader and also works for a publisher that contributes to lengthening many such piles, I want to reassure you: you are not alone. I’m here to walk you through the process, show you there are others all around you dealing with TBR pile shock, and help you and your Goodreads profile find peace.

Stage One: Denial

I can do this, you think, staring down that list of books the way Rocky/Karate Kid/that quarterback in Remember the Titans faced their respective opponents. Determination. Focus. One page at a time.

(Did I have to look up a list of underdog sports movies? Yes. My greatest athletic achievements are literary triathlons, which consist of reading a book, discussing the book, and explaining why the book was better than the movie.)

Yes, you have a daunting TBR pile in front of you, but it can and will be conquered, you assure yourself, even as the list fills a thick binder. Even as you add three books for every one you check off. Even as you hear the faint but unmistakable sound of your high school math teacher lecturing on statistical probability and laughing at your baseless optimism.

But the more you stare at the list of books you want to read, promised your friends you’d read, and feel an obligation to read to better yourself as a person, reality sets in: your TBR pile may be getting out of control. Which triggers…

Stage Two: Anger

Suddenly, interfering tasks like housework and sleeping seem irritating and unnecessary, all taking up valuable reading time. You may find yourself lashing out in anger at bosses for expecting you to be present at your job, family members for having conversations with you, dust for falling, and anything else that distracts you from a page-turning read. This is normal.

Well, not exactly normal, but we’re book nerds. We have different standards. Continue reading

Ask Bethany House: How Do Authors Do Research?

One of our readers asked this question in our survey: “How much research do your historical authors do to write their novels? What does that look like?” My answer, of course, was: I have no idea. But I do know who to ask!

I decided to get some answers by asking the authors of our two historical fiction releases for this month. Methods, time spent, and overall enjoyment level will vary from person to person, but here’s a little glimpse inside the research process from Melissa Jagears and Connilyn Cossette.

Amy: On a scale from 1-10 (1 being I’d-rather-be-live-bait-at-a-mosquito-farm, 10 being this-is-better-than-pure-happiness-dipped-in-chocolate), how much do you enjoy research?

Melissa: 6. (Using the research while actually writing is much more fun.)

Connilyn: 10! I absolutely love research and spend many happy hours following rabbit trails of information that don’t ever make it into my books or that constitute the background of one line that no one will probably ever notice. But that’s okay with me! I am a well of useless knowledge. Although research paired with chocolate would be even better.

Amy: What’s one research tip you’d pass along to a writer who was working on a historical novel for the first time?

Melissa: Don’t stop writing to check on historical accuracy unless you know it will derail your story or make you rewrite a significant portion if you’re wrong. For example, don’t stop to look up if the word “thingamajig” was in use yet or what sort of car your hero could drive, just make a note in the margin to look it up and go on. You can lose your writing momentum and hours of work in history rabbit holes. Go back to your margin notes and fill in the details when editing, because who knows, you might ax the whole paragraph anyway.

Connilyn: Keep track of your sources so you can find it again later. This was something I did not do for my first book and I sorely regretted it. I like to double-check my facts and if I cannot find my source then I have to waste time in the editing stage searching for it all over again. Nowadays I keep links to most sources in Evernote and Scrivener so it’s pretty simple to check back later.

Amy: What’s one research tidbit that played an important role in your latest novel?

Melissa: For my Teaville Moral Society series, I had to figure out how they’d treat and discuss an infant with fetal alcohol syndrome before anyone knew what it was.

Connilyn: Alanah, my main character, is an archer so I had lots of fun researching archery. My kids just happened to be taking an archery class during that time so that helped, but I also spent a couple of hours watching videos about how to construct a compound bow from wood and sinew, just like Alanah would have in Ancient Canaan. If the power grid goes down and I have to hunt for my own food, YouTube totally has me prepared.

Thanks for helping me answer this one, ladies! If you’d like to see how history is interwoven with these two stories, check out an excerpt of A Love So True and Wings of the Wind.

Readers, is there an era of history you especially like reading about?

Prayer for Authors: May 2017

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 May:

Connilyn Cossette
Dee Henderson
Melissa Jagears
Becky Wade

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.

With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees. Say to those with fearful hearts,Be strong, and do not fear.’–Isaiah 35:3-4 (NLT)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For courage to persevere in their writing and their personal lives.
  • For clarity of thought and focus in the midst of distraction (and deadlines).
  • For book buyers, librarians, bookstore employees, and others who connect readers with books.

Again, I love having all of you with me for this tradition of prayer. I know these authors appreciate it as well!

May 2017 New Releases!

It’s a new month, and that means I’ve got some beautiful covers and compelling stories to share with you! Enjoy these sneak peeks at four books that just appeared on shelves this week. (To read an excerpt, click on each cover.)

Wings of the Wind by Connilyn Cossette

Synopsis: After her Canaanite family is killed by the Hebrews, Alanah disguises herself as a warrior and enters the battle to avenge her loved ones. She never intended to survive. When Tobiah, a Hebrew warrior, finds her unconscious among the dead, he faces an impossible dilemma: The only way to protect this wounded woman—the enemy of his people—is to marry her.

First Lines: Forging through the teeming mass of Canaanite soldiers in this vast army camp, I’d never felt more alone. A tendril of hair tickled the side of my neck and I jammed the errant strand under my bronze helmet, hoping no one had glimpsed the flash of red against my shoulder. The scaled armor I wore, heavy as it was, disguised my form to good effect. If I was vigilant to keep my guard raised, no one would ever know a woman walked among them until they found my body on the battlefield tomorrow.

A Love So True by Melissa Jagears

Synopsis: Evelyn Wisely has a heart for the orphans of Teaville. She works daily to help get children out of the town’s red-light district, but she longs to help the women there as well. Intrigued by Evelyn, David Kingsman lends his support to her cause. Though they begin work with the best of intentions, complications arise.

First Lines: If David Kingsman had any chance of making his father proud, this next decision could be it. Of course, Father was just as likely to disown him for it, but if David’s projections were correct, it would be worth it. Hopefully.

Threads of Suspicion by Dee Henderson

Synopsis: With the public eye fixed on the governor’s new Missing Persons Task Force, Detective Evie Blackwell and her new partner, David, are under pressure to produce results. While they investigate two missing-persons cases in Chicago, Evie and David’s conviction that justice is truly possible for all will be tested to the limit.

First Lines: As Governor Bliss came to the podium, Lieutenant Evie Blackwell dug her hands into her coat pockets, grateful the January cold would keep this press announcement on schedule and limited to twenty minutes. His inauguration just the day before had been sunnier and a few degrees warmer. She did her best to ignore the television cameras trained on the podium, knowing she and the other officers on the stage were now in their view frame, and that this clip would run on the local evening newscast.

True to You by Becky Wade

Synopsis: After a broken engagement, genealogist Nora Bradford decides focusing on her work and her novels is safer than romance. But when John, a former Navy SEAL, hires her to help find his birth mother, the spark between them is undeniable. However, he’s dating someone, and Nora is hesitant. Is she ready to abandon her fictional heroes and risk her heart for real?

First Lines: Finding oneself at the mercy of a crazed gunman isn’t all fun and games. Nope, thought Nora Bradford. Not at all. Not even when said gunman was an actor toting a fake gun and you’d volunteered your time to play the role of hostage for noble reasons.

Are there any books you’re looking forward to this spring? How about sharing the first few lines of a book you’re currently reading?

Ask Bethany House: What’s Your Favorite Bethany House Book?

I see you there, cunning reader who thought I’d completely ignore this question because I was afraid of showing favoritism. Or maybe you thought I’d be vague and say, “That’s like asking me to pick a favorite child.” Haha! Guess I showed you.

The question, from our Ask BHP survey was, “If you had to pick a favorite Bethany House book, which would it be?”

And for me, the answer is easy: my favorite Bethany House book is Saint Ben by John Fischer. Since this novel is out of print and was first published in 1993 (check out that 90s cover!), I’d say this is a pretty safe choice, since none of my current authors can feel left out.

That, of course, isn’t the reason I chose it. Saint Ben will always have a special place in my heart for several reasons.

First, while it turns out that many of my favorite Christian children’s series were published by Bethany House, Saint Ben was different. It’s general fiction, almost a coming-of-age story, and really more for adults than kids, but my sixth grade teacher read it out loud to us one chapter at a time. It was the first book that I can remember distinctly shaping my faith, edging out The Silver Chair by a few months. The story, set in the 1950s, was about more than just the Rose Bowl parade or the Edsel or two pastors’ kids playing pranks on their church congregation, though those are all part of the story. It was about doubt and the courage to ask hard questions of God. That’s something twelve-year-old me was just starting to work through, and I loved realizing I wasn’t alone.

Second, John Fischer was the first author I ever met. I don’t know how my teacher worked it out, and I know it was so last-minute that none of us were able to buy a copy to be signed, but John Fischer came in to speak to my little sixth grade Christian school class, which, of course, I thought was the coolest thing ever.

Third, this one stands up to multiple re-readings now that I’m an adult, and it has a depth I didn’t notice my first time around, handling some difficult topics that you don’t often see in Christian fiction.

At the time, of course, I had no idea Saint Ben was a Bethany House book (at age twelve, I don’t think I realized that someone actually published books—I thought they kind of sprang up onto the shelves by magic). In fact, I didn’t make the connection until I walked into the Bethany House offices for my interview four years ago and saw this painting outside the office of our vice president of sales and marketing.

Turns out, it was a favorite of his too, enough that he wanted to display the original oil painting right by his door. So whenever I walk through the halls of our office, I remember my old friends Ben and Jonathan.

If you get a chance, I’d highly recommend finding a used copy of this classic and reading it. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did!

Can you remember the first fiction book that had an impact on your faith?

Behind the Scenes: Cover Costumes

Today, we get a special glimpse into a part of cover design that you might not have known existed…the costumes!

Most of the time at Bethany House, we rent costumes for use on our covers, but it just so happens that we also know a talented seamstress who takes on an occasional project. She is Beth Schoenherr, mother of Julie Klassen’s editor, Raela Schoenherr, and she created both costumes on the cover of the upcoming novel The Ladies of Ivy Cottage.

Aren’t they beautiful? (They’re even more detailed up close.)

She also agreed to answer a few questions on the blog today about the work involved in the process of making an author’s vision come to life.

What were the general steps you had to go through to sew one of those lovely Regency dresses for the cover, just to give us an idea of the process?

I started the sewing process for the Regency outfits by taking the model’s measurements and making a muslin version of the more fitted parts of the dress to ensure it would be a perfect fit before cutting into the actual dress fabrics. Then cut, sew, and—my favorite part—embellish!

How did you choose the colors and patterns for the dresses?

Julie, her editor, and the cover designer discussed and chose the color options for Rachel’s outfit based on what colors were appropriate for a woman in half mourning to wear at that time in history, as well as what a woman of her station would have worn at the time. Mercy’s outfit color and pattern were also chosen by Julie and her editor and cover designer as a good contrast next to the lavender outfit, as well as something that would be typical for Mercy to wear. For embellishment on Mercy’s outfit, I used antique trim for the collar, sleeves, and back.

I brought samples of fabric choices within the chosen color palettes to show the cover designer and editor to decide what would look best in the final cover design. They chose the lavender, pin-tucked taffeta because its texture would add some dimension to the coat that would show up well in photos. I found several sewing pattern options we could work from, and based on some costume inspiration photos from Julie, we decided on the pattern for the long coat.

You can find the pattern used here if you ever want to make your own Regency gown!

Since the approved cover direction meant the women would be seen from the back, we wanted to be sure the backs of both outfits (hats included) would also have some attractive elements.

Is there a particular era of fashion that you find the most fun?

Oh dear! I truly can’t pick a favorite era of fashion. I love seeing all the different shapes and styles throughout history. There’s always some beautiful or interesting or crazy element in every era of fashion.

For more from Beth, check out Tamera Alexander’s interview with her about the beautiful Southern belle dress she created for A Beauty So Rare.

I hope you had fun learning about one of many behind-the-scenes elements of your favorite covers! And now, a question for you, readers: if you were dressing up for a costume party, which literary character would you choose to portray?

Expedition: Still Life – Dani Pettrey’s Tour of Federal Hill!

Welcome to the Expedition: Still Life blog tour! And thank you to my wonderful publisher for joining in!

If you aren’t familiar with this exciting blog tour, or the fabulous grand prize you can win by taking part in it, please visit Expedition: Still Life‘s main contest page for all the details.

Click on the cover to read an excerpt!

Today’s stop is Federal Hill where Avery Tate, the crime scene photographer heroine of my latest release, Still Life, lives. Fed Hill has a rich history. It is one of Baltimore’s oldest neighborhoods and was noted by Captain John Smith on his voyage up to what is now Maryland, referring to Fed Hill as the “great red bank of clay.”

Fed Hill has continued to grow, becoming the center of the city’s bustling maritime port and growing industrial hub. Today the once red bank of clay is a grass-covered hill where picnickers and stargazers can be found. The neighborhood is filled with cobblestone streets, eclectic shops, art galleries, and yummy restaurants. At the heart is the Cross Street Market—an old-fashioned fresh food market, which opened in 1846.

Some fun facts about this trendy Baltimore neighborhood’s rich history:

    • Federal Hill earned its nickname during a parade celebrating Maryland’s ratification of the U.S. Constitution.
    • It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
    • It served as a defensive stronghold during the War of 1812 and the Civil War.
    • The hill on which Federal Hill Park resides has several tunnels and passageways (from the 1800’s) beneath its present parklike setting.
    • It was the destination of hundreds of thousands of immigrants.
    • Famous residents include/have included: Former first daughter Jenna Bush Hager and her husband, Henry; The Wire’s David Simon and his wife, writer Laura Lippman, and writer Tom Clancy.

Here’s a video tour you can take of the area. I hope you enjoy seeing where Avery Tate lives!

Avery loves living in such an artsy and historic neighborhood. This Pinterest board will give you an idea of what her townhouse looks like.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this inside peek at Avery Tate’s neighborhood and home. This is the third stop on the Expedition: Still Life Tour. Be sure to collect your passport stamp to be entered to win the Grand Prize here. (Don’t worry if you get an error message on the entry box. Your entry is still going through!)

To also be entered to win a LifeWay gift card, just answer the question below. After answering the question, visit danipettrey.com/stilllife-contest/ to see all the other stops and giveaways on this tour.

Avery’s home is rustic nautical. How would you describe your home’s (or dream home’s) style? Mine is beachy shabby chic.

April 2017 Bethany House Books

Since we’ve officially (by the calendar, at least) moved on from winter, I can welcome you to a list of great spring books! (Who needs spring cleaning when you can have spring reading instead?)

I’m excited to introduce our lineup of new releases to you, in all different genres and settings. There’s something here for everyone! To take a closer look, click on each cover to read an excerpt. Enjoy, readers!

The Ebb Tide by Beverly Lewis

Sallie Riehl comes to Cape May for the summer as a nanny, yet what the Amish young woman discovers about herself and the broader world during those unforgettable weeks challenges her plans for the future. Has she been too hasty with her promises, or will she only find what her heart is longing for back home in Paradise Township?

 

Invitation by Bill Myers, Frank Peretti, Angela Hunt, and Alton Gansky

In the first cycle of the Harbinger series, four strangers discover they have extraordinary gifts and are brought together to fight a growing darkness. Meet the members of the Harbingers team—each written by an acclaimed author—in four linked episodes! Fast-paced and ongoing, this thrilling suspense collection reads like your favorite TV series.

To the Farthest Shores by Elizabeth Camden

Naval officer Ryan Gallagher broke Jenny’s heart six years ago when he abruptly disappeared. Now he’s returned but refuses to discuss what happened. Furious, Jenny has no notion of the impossible situation Ryan is in. With lives still at risk, he can’t tell Jenny the truth about his overseas mission—but he can’t bear to lose her again either.

 

Behind the Scenes by Jen Turano

Miss Permilia Griswold, the wallflower behind The Quill gossip column, knows everything that goes on in the ballrooms of New York. When she overhears a threat against the estimable Mr. Asher Rutherford, she’s determined to warn him. Away from society’s spotlight, Asher and Permilia discover there’s more going on behind the scenes than they anticipated.

The Chapel Car Bride by Judith Miller

Hope Irvine always sees the best in people. While traveling on the rails with her missionary father, she attracts the attention of a miner named Luke and a young mine manager. When Luke begins to suspect the manager is using Hope’s missions of mercy as a cover for illegal activities, can he discover the truth without putting her in danger?

 

Confession time: what chore or responsibility are you most likely to postpone so you can read a good book?

Prayer for Authors: April 2017

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 April:

Elizabeth Camden
Alton Gansky
Angela Hunt
Beverly Lewis
Judith Miller
Bill Myers
Frank Peretti
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.

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.–Ephesians 3:16-17 (NLT)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For the ability to show grace toward others and themselves.
  • For curious readers to begin to ask questions about God because of the messages of these books.
  • For moments of peace and rest in God no matter how busy life gets.

Blessings on your Sunday, readers, and thanks for taking a little bit of it to pray along with us for these authors!

Q&A with Tracie Peterson and Mary Connealy!

Welcome to the Wild West! In our releases this month, Tracie Peterson takes us to the real-life history of the Oregon Trail, and Mary Connealy brings us the second Boden sibling to find love. I asked Mary and Tracie to share a few inside details with readers so you can look forward to adding both of these to your TBR pile.

Amy: Describe your main characters for me.

Mary: Justin is the rancher. He’s especially in conflict with Cole, the older, more citified brother. For Justin, I wanted a heroine who really clashed with him. So I brought in a very dainty woman who’d been raised in elite, moneyed circles in Omaha, Nebraska. A rich father, a rich husband, and none of them kind and loving people. Justin is drawn to Angelique DuPree, but sees her as a woman who needs “civilization.” And who has no ranching skills, no kitchen skills. She is the worst possible choice to be a rancher’s wife in the rugged West. Angelique is driven by the notion that she has been a weakling all her life. She let her mother rule her, then later her husband, and it all led to poverty and hardship and a life without love. She is determined to stop obeying blindly and find the courage God expects of her.

Tracie: Grace is a healer who has learned the art from her mother and grandmother. She’s also rather prejudiced and opinionated. Her love interest, Alex Armistead, is running from the past and God. He’s determined to remain lost in the Oregon Country wilderness, but his heart has other ideas. As he and Grace clash, both come to learn that they have changes to face and that real love is there for them—if they are brave enough to accept it.

Amy: How did you pick your setting?

Mary: I took a trip to Chama, New Mexico, several years ago for a writers’ retreat, where we all rode a train on a narrow-gauge railroad. That train took us through the area I’m writing about. What amazed me were the desert-like conditions, and yet the grasslands, all brown and dead-looking, the tour guide said was lush and cattle got fat on it. It helped me to see that rocky soil for its real value—with the mountains rising up around us, covered in Aspen trees that seemed to grow right out of the rock. In fact, this has helped me see past the reputation of many places and understand how people can live, often comfortably, in what seems like a forbidding land, if they can just learn to live with the land instead of imposing the life they came from on a place that won’t support that.

Tracie: When I planned Treasured Grace, I wanted it to incorporate several actual historical events. The attack on the Whitman Mission was a fascinating one that played a big role in the way the government dealt with the Indians of the west for years to come. Frustrated and dealing with the deaths of loved ones, the Cayuse Indians of the area had reached their limit of cooperating with the whites—Dr. Marcus Whitman in particular. There were quite a few diary accounts of all that happened at the mission, making it nice for me as a writer to create as accurate a fiction novel as possible.

Amy: What themes come up in your novel?

Mary: The Boden family began for me with Jacob and Esau and this notion of how badly Jacob and Esau were treated by their parents, Isaac and Rebecca. The mom loved and favored Jacob. The father favored Esau. Deep differences in character between Jacob and Esau also put them naturally in conflict. That has always bothered me. I’ve known parents who had their favorites, bragged on one child and disparaged another, left more money to the favored child, things like that. So the seed of my story was: What if instead of spurring on the conflict between their sons, Isaac and Rebecca had done everything in their power to bring their sons together? Chance Boden is determined that his children will be close, will realize they love each other, and that the conflict between them is nothing compared to their loyalty to each other, as well as the connection they share as future owners of the ranch. Chance goes to some extreme measures to get his children to be friends. The conflict and the love between them continue to clash and grow in Long Time Gone.

Tracie: As with all of my books there was a desire to speak to the matter of forgiveness, but in this story there was also the element of trusting God when all seems lost—trusting Him even when bad and undeserved things happen. I also wanted to create a story where there were serious consequences for my characters—consequences for actions put upon them and not actions they chose for themselves. People so often struggle with the pain and life-changing situations that are thrust upon them because of things done to them. I wanted to present a story that would show the reader that even when those things are done, we can trust God to bring beauty from ashes.

Just for fun, let’s have a giveaway! I’ll pick one winner to receive Mary and Tracie’s new books on Monday, April 3. To enter, just respond to this question: Why do you think people are drawn to stories about the American frontier?