Eight Things Guaranteed to Make Readers Nostalgic

There are lots of great conversations you can have with readers, but some of my favorites are about what makes us nostalgic. Whether it’s a childhood picture book memory or the bookstore that got away (aka isn’t in your hometown), I hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane.

One: Book-It

If you weren’t one of the millions of kids who got a free personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut for completing a reading goal, starting in 1984, I’m sorry for your joy-bereft childhood. You should sit down right now, make a monthly goal, and reward yourself with a greasy, cheesy, don’t-have-to-share-with-my-sister little slice of glory if you make it. Because this was the best reward program ever. Plus, the badges, am I right? So good.

Two: The First Read of Your Favorite Book/Series

Sure, you’ve re-read it, recommended it to friends, maybe seen the movie version a dozen times, and so on, but nothing beats the excitement of the first time you read a favorite book. Before you knew what would happen to the characters, back when every cliffhanger left you agonized (especially if there were years between releases in a series), to all the late nights reading “one more chapter.” Ah yes. If only we could time travel and re-experience that wonder. Sigh.

Three: Reading Contests

Whether it was run by your library over the summer to keep you off the streets or some elementary school achievement bribe, there’s something about checklists and competition that warms a reader’s heart. Like, okay, I can still read a stack of books now, but I won’t be able to put snobby Susie Accelerated Reader Queen in her place, edging her out in the last few days by binging a bunch of Nancy Drew mysteries. It’s just not the same level of satisfaction. Besides that, remember the prizes? Those multi-colored clicky pens, slap bracelets, yo-yos, erasers shaped like small animals, and all manner of plastic toys that broke the first recess you took them out. Real treasures, for sure.

Four: Beloved Original Copies

I’m not talking fancy first editions here, just the battered-and-scarred books that have seen a lot of love in their day and hold a place of honor on the bookshelf. Even if newer, cooler covers have come out, there’s something sentimental about the originals, even if the originals are falling apart at the spine. Like, okay, I know the words inside are the same and it shouldn’t make a difference, but seriously, what nonsense are the new cheap-animation-knockoff Boxcar Children covers? Heresy.

Five: PBS Book Programming

Whether you still have a hard time remembering that the main characters of all classic novels aren’t Jack Russell terriers or now have the Reading Rainbow theme song stuck in your head, PBS had some delightful book-themed shows. (Reading Rainbow retweeted one of the flowcharts I made for Bethany House about getting people books for Christmas, and it was one of the happier moments of my life.) If none of that resonates with you, just accept the fact that in Wishbone, a dog stars in reimagined classics with so many canine puns (Ivanhound, Frankenbone, Bone of Arc) and that LeVar Burton is the actual best. That’s all you need to know.

Six: Scholastic Book Fairs

Picture tables of books with shiny, colorful covers, all within arm’s reach, with the visual appeal of a candy store window full of those giant lollipops that no one can actual eat. There was the avenue of horse and puppy books with big round eyes begging you to adopt them. There were displays of absurdly gender-specific reads, including super gross potty humor titles and books about princesses with embossing or glitter. There were rows and rows of chapter books that made you feel like the Awesome Big Kid you totally were, because look, there’s only one black-and-white picture per chapter now! My school cleverly paired the book fair with Grandparent’s Day, because what grandma is not going to buy their precious angel a stack of Choose-Your-Own-Adventure survival books? (She was not, for the record, thrilled about the Captain Underpants trend.) Man. Those were the days.

Seven: Vacation Bookstore Visits

It seems like everyone has been on a trip where they find The Bookstore of Their Dreams. Whether it’s elegant and rambling with every book you could ever imagine or cozy and cramped with hilarious signs in the stacks, something about it makes you want to move in. Like, permanently. (And if you never visit bookstores on vacation, build it into your schedule, it’s the best.) Unfortunately, this near-mythical bookstore is too far away for regular visits, so you can only think wistfully of how much of your budget you’d spend on books if it was across the street instead of across the country, or even the world.

Eight: Iconic Children’s Book Characters

Bonus points if said character had a weird name, because let’s face it, you don’t get characters like Amelia Bedelia, Yertle the Turtle, Pippi Longstocking, and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle in grown-up literature, which is a real shame. But seriously, forget the Internet fandoms over TV shows and such, I want to get into a hearty debate over whether the ending to Charlotte’s Web is more or less tragic than Where the Red Fern Grows. Or is Willy Wonka even a reasonable protagonist, or a thinly-veiled sociopath? And why is Goodnight, Moon a kids’ book when it is so deeply eerie? These are the real questions, guys.

Which of these makes you feel the most nostalgic? Tell us about it in the comments!

Beverly Lewis Shares About Her Writing Life

Many of our readers love hearing about what writers go through to get books to them…and we have the joy of having Beverly Lewis on the blog today to tell you all about it! With over 17 million books in print, she has a lot of wisdom to share about the writing and publishing process, so listen in!

Q: When did you start writing? What were your first efforts?

A: At the tender age of nine, I began secretly writing short stories and poetry. My mother knew where I kept my work hidden and managed to save everything I wrote, even the stories I dreamed up during my grade school years. One story is semi-autobiographical, about a young girl whose parents can no longer afford piano lessons for her. The manuscript was 77 pages long and titled “She Shall Have Music,” and was my first “book,” penned under the shade of a lone willow tree.

Q: Have you had any formal writing education?

A: My first semester of college, I was torn between a music degree and a journalism degree. I ended up following both passions that ruled me from my childhood and graduated with a Bachelor of Music Ed with emphasis on piano and voice, and close to a minor in English. I landed a teaching job immediately, where I taught music (K-6) and creative writing for fifth graders and realized, once again, that my two passions had converged in an amazing way!

Q: At what point(s) in your career did you feel like you’ve gone from amateur to pro?

A: When my first book surprisingly morphed into a 14-book series for pre-teen girls (“Holly’s Heart” series), I knew that my hobby-writing days were behind me. Those books written in the first-person point-of-view, like an open letter from my heart to the reader, are still popular with young girls today, in print after 26 years! Stunning. 😊

Q: Have you had help along the way? Any mentors?

A: My biggest fan when I was a child writer was my cousin Joyce, who begged for the next chapter in my little books when she and her mom visited us on weekends. Years later, after I was married, Dave, my husband and first editor, cheered me on to higher heights, urging me to write for magazines, and, later, books for kids, teens and adults. Two college professors also insisted that I consider writing as a possible career—fiction and nonfiction.

Q: What’s the best writing advice you’ve gotten?

A: Write your heart/passion.

Q: What’s the worst?

A: Always avoid writing first-person point-of-view for prologues and epilogues. (Thankfully, I rejected that terrible advice. That, in fact, is one of the hallmarks of my bestselling novels!)

Q: How do you find the time to write?

A: Writing is a significant part of my daily life, and always has been, so I write frequently and for long hours, since my husband and I are empty-nesters. While I our three children were little, I wrote when they napped and after they were tucked into bed at night. Actually, I was “writing” in my head a lot when I wasn’t at the computer during those years. (Remember, I’ve been happily writing since I was nine years old.) A writer is a writer is a writer. . . .

Q: Do you always write at your computer? Where are you most prolific?

A: Sometimes, for the sheer fun of it, I write longhand, to keep things close to my heart and with an intimate facet. Primarily, though, I work at my computer in my home office, where my fingers typically fly across the keys—like they do at the piano keyboard, since I was a little girl. There must be some curious correlation.

Q: Were their any sacrifices you had to make to be a writer?

A: After The Shunning (my breakout novel for adults) was released in 1997, I gave up my then full-time job (running a large music studio for advanced students of piano, voice, violin, and music theory/composition). The sacrifice came because I adored my long-time students and missed interacting with them each week, although they’ve kept in touch with me through the years.

Q: Take us through the process of writing a book. How long does that process usually take?

A: My ideas for novels come, typically, a year or two prior to when I will begin writing that first draft. I’ve been writing two novels per year for more than twenty years, so there is this overlap of pieces—ideas-outlines, first drafts, revisions and final pages. Never a lull in the line-up of my projects, so far, which I absolutely love.

Q: Have you received any feedback on how your books and series have impacted its readers?

A: One of my greatest joys is hearing from readers who say my stories have touched them significantly—even changed the direction of their lives. So many have written to me: teens in West Africa, men and women of all ages in America, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and Central America…people whom God is meeting on a personal level, where my readers are spiritually, emotionally, physically. Most of all, I hope readers might come to know the love of Christ in a more intimate way through having discovered what unconditional love looks like in my books—to experience just a taste of the height and width and breadth of God’s love for each of us.

Q: Will you do more books in this genre?

A: If I could write any type of book without barriers, I would write precisely what I believe God is nudging me to…in short, the genre I’m currently writing. I’m quite passionate about what I do—creating characters who “live and breathe” in my readers’ hearts and minds, and in mine, as well. I write from a tender heart, and as long as God continues to give me great storylines that are meaningful and touch a nerve in readers, I will keep writing Amish fiction. My last two-book family saga, The Tinderbox and The Timepiece, is generating a lot of online buzz, and I’m thrilled to respond to readers’ seemingly unquenchable desire for more of my work. I feel absolutely blessed!

Q: What advice would you give other writers, especially in your genre?

A: Forever and always—read! And I suggest reading the very best of literature…the old classics to start. Also, read the kind of story you’d like to write. As for the actual writing, don’t worry about perfection at first. Take your time, get the story down, then rewrite and fine-tune later. And, yes, spelling and grammar do count! There are many wonderful reference tools for new writers. Ask the reference librarian at your local public library for help in locating books to point you in the direction of publishers who may be interested in your work.

Thanks so much for joining us, Beverly! If you’d like to follow Beverly, she posts nearly every day on her Facebook page. Join her there for lots of bookish fun! And look for her next novel, The Stone Wall, releasing in September 2020.

Ask Bethany House 2020!

It’s a new year! And that means…new questions for our monthly(ish) series of posts, Ask Bethany House! I love this part of my job, because it’s super fun to see what questions readers have for us. Even when I can’t answer them myself, there’s often someone on the team who can, and I often end up learning things from the process.

You can take a look at past posts if you want to see what type of question we’ve answered before. Some repeats are okay, but I’ll also look for some totally new questions.

Once you’ve done that, head over to the survey here and ask away!

To thank you for taking the time to come up with a topic, on January 21, I’ll pick three winners from our participants who can select their choice of one of our December, January, or February new releases.

Thanks, all, and happy questioning!

January 2020 New Releases

Welcome to 2020! And what a great lineup of new releases we have to start off a new year! Take a look at each of these page-turning novels and see what stands out to you. You can start reading by clicking the cover. Enjoy!

 

End Game by Rachel Dylan
Capital Intrigue #1

Plot Summary: When elite members of the military are murdered on the streets of Washington, D.C., FBI Special Agent Bailey Ryan and NCIS Special Agent Marco Agostini must work together to bring the perpetrator to justice. As the stakes rise in a twisted conspiracy and allies turn to enemies, the biggest secret yet to be uncovered could be the end of them all.

 

Forever Hidden by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse
The Treasures of Nome #1

Plot Summary: When her grandfather’s health begins to decline, Havyn is determined to keep her family together. But everyone has secrets—including John, the hired stranger who recently arrived on their farm. To help out, Havyn starts singing at a local roadhouse—but dangerous eyes grow jealous as she and John grow closer. Will they realize the peril before it is too late?

 

On Wings of Devotion by Roseanna M. White
The Codebreakers #2

Plot Summary: All of England thinks Phillip Camden a monster for the deaths of his squadron. As Nurse Arabelle Denler watches him every day, though, she sees something far different: a hurting man desperate for mercy. But when an old acquaintance shows up and seems set on using him in a plot that has the codebreakers of Room 40 in a frenzy, new affections are put to the test.

 

What elements do you think stand out about each of these covers? (I’m always gathering these little details for future cover discussion meetings.)

Prayer for Authors: January 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 January:

Rachel Dylan
Tracie Peterson
Roseanna M. White
Kimberley Woodhouse

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.

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”—Psalm 73:25-26 (ESV)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For all the organization needed to keep up with deadlines and tasks during a busy time.
  • For inspiration and ideas for future books (or ways to revise current manuscripts).
  • For those who recommend books to others to find books with a message that will benefit readers.

We’re always grateful to have you praying with us, readers, but that’s especially true as we head into a new year. Thanks so much!

Randomly Generated Reading Challenge 2020

Hello, readers! After seeing lots of reading challenges around the Internet, I wanted to make my own, but I couldn’t come up with anything especially original.

So, I did what any forward-thinking book-lover would do…I went to a random word generator on the Internet and did some clicking. Here are the words and corresponding challenges I came up with. Enjoy! You can bookmark this list, or print the graphic below and use it as a reminder. Be sure to check off the book that qualifies for each month!

 

January
Word: lost
Challenge: A book you should have read in school but didn’t. (Interpret that however you like!)

February
Word: change
Challenge: A discounted or sale book/ebook.

March
Word: advance
Challenge: A novel set during wartime.

April
Word: complication
Challenge: A book that shows you the main plot problem in the title/cover.

May
Word: language
Challenge: A prestigious award-winning book.

June
Word: favorite
Challenge: A re-read of a childhood classic.

July
Word: popcorn
Challenge: A book that has been or will be made into a movie.

August
Word: idea
Challenge: A nonfiction book on a topic that interests you.

September
Word: refer
Challenge: A recommendation from a friend (or librarian or bookstore owner).

October
Word: grandmother
Challenge: A book where one of the main characters is 65+.

November
Word: freeze
Challenge: A novel with ice or snow on the cover.

December
Word: selection
Challenge: Free space! Pick anything that looks interesting.

On Instagram, we’ll be choosing one book per month that fits into the categories above and tagging our picks with #BHPChallenge2020. Feel free to join us if you like!

After looking at the categories above, do you have any books you’d recommend to others, readers?

Is This Wrapped Present a Book? (A Handy Flowchart)

I don’t know about all of you, but I’m on constant Christmas surveillance to detect my favorite presents under the tree…books! After years of careful research, I’ve come up with some ways to be confident in my guessing abilities.

This is Amy Green, fiction publicist…and sneaky book-present detective. Here is my top-secret method for your instruction and use. Enjoy!

Okay, readers, what tips have you used to determine whether you have any book presents under the tree?

Ask BHP: Does Bethany House Have Any Christmas Traditions?

Next in our Ask Bethany House blog series, a seasonal question! One reader wrote, “Beyond the normal Christmas office party, what holiday traditions does Bethany House have?”

Given that I am currently listening to instrumental carols and watching snow fall gently outside, it felt like the perfect time to share some favorite holiday activities from our offices in Minnesota. Maybe you’ll find a new tradition or two!

Decoration Day

Early in December, Chris from our marketing department gets together a crew to bring out the boxes and deck the halls, from the lunchroom to the stairwells to our tree. On the days when I need to stay late or come in early, it’s lovely to see the golden glow of lights in the dark Bethany House office.

Christmas Potluck

Yes, this is separate from our Christmas party, and it involves SO MUCH FOOD. Everyone brings their A-game for this potluck in particular, and you’ll come into the kitchen to find an array of Crockpots and appetizer trays crowding the counters. Someone always brings cider (the best) and eggnog (why bother?), and it always pays to scope out the dessert table early.

Hope Academy Book Project

We love the mission of Hope Academy in Minneapolis, and every year, we order two books for each child in one classroom to take home (we’re assigned to third grade this year). A lot of kids in the school don’t own many books, and they get so excited every year to unwrap them! Bethany House staff volunteer to wrap the books (not my personal strength; my wrapping jobs are always…rustic), and deliver them to the kids. There’s a fun time afterward where we read the first few chapters of one of the books with the kids in a small “buddy” group. And we always love listening to Hope Academy’s choir serenading all the volunteers with carols!

Julie Klassen’s Booksigning

Not a holiday tradition, per se, but since Julie’s books release in December and she’s one of our few local authors, several Bethany House staff members enjoy attending (and bringing treats to) her launch event and presentation at Barnes & Noble. This year, there was an interactive five-minute mystery to solve to celebrate The Bridge to Belle Island. (The plot: Who stole Julie’s rare copy of Pride and Prejudice? The scheming editor, the flustered first reader, the jealous-of-Mr.-Darcy husband or the well-intentioned assistant?) It’s fun to enjoy the event and see readers buying lots of books as Christmas presents!

The Nativity Scene

This really goes with the decorating bit, but I’m always put in charge of checking our latest titles to see which ones we should add to the office manger scene. From 2019, I decided Mary would be very interested in A Song of Joy by Lauraine Snelling, given her own joyful song, and that one of the angels needed to check out On Wings of Devotion by Roseanna M. White.

Emails About Goodies

Okay, you laugh, but often at this time of year, authors or advertisers will send small gifts to our office—usually in the form of something edible. Once the treats are set out in a common area, an email is the starting gun for a stampede of sweet-seekers. (Okay, I’m exaggerating a little bit, but you do not want to come between me and the last chocolate truffle, that’s all I’m saying.)
There are other festivities that will go on—everything from Secret Santa exchanges to mysteriously-appearing chocolates in the little stockings hanging outside marketing offices—but those are the main yearly traditions. I hope you enjoyed hearing about them!

What are your Christmas traditions, at work or otherwise?

December 2019 New Releases

December at Bethany House is full of traditions, including decorating the office, eating dishes at our famous potluck (which is today), and attending our Christmas service project, but one of my favorite things to celebrate is the release of our new books this festive month! In case you need to snag a holiday gift for a reader on your list, these new releases would be perfect. (Click on the covers to read the first chapter of each.)

 

The Bridge to Belle Island by Julie Klassen

Plot Summary: 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.

 

Seconds to Live by Susan Sleeman
Homeland Heroes #1

Plot Summary: When cybercriminals hack into the U.S. Marshal’s Witness Protection database and auction off personal details to the highest bidder, FBI Agent Sean Nichols begins a high-stakes chase to find the hacker. Trouble is, he has to work with U.S. Marshal Taylor Mills, who knows the secrets of his past, and the seconds are slipping away before someone dies.

 

The Major’s Daughter by Regina Jennings
The Fort Reno Series #3

Plot Summary: Caroline Adams returns to Indian Territory craving adventure after tiring of society life. When she comes across swaggering outlaw Frisco Smith, his plan to obtain property in the Unassigned Lands sparks her own dreams for the future. When the land rush begins, they find themselves battling over a claim—and both dig in their heels.

 

Echoes among the Stones by Jaime Jo Wright

Plot Summary: Mystery begins to follow Aggie Dunkirk when she exhumes the past’s secrets and uncovers a crime her eccentric grandmother has been obsessing over. Decades earlier, after discovering her sister’s body in the attic, Imogene Flannigan is determined to obtain justice. Two women, separated by time, vow to find answers . . . no matter the cost.

 

And now, an important question, readers: how do you request books as Christmas gifts? A wish list? Subtle hints? Clipped-out catalog listings? Inquiring minds want to know.

Prayer for Authors: December 2019

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 December:

Regina Jennings
Julie Klassen
Susan Sleeman
Jaime Jo Wright

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.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”—Colossians 3:17 (NIV)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For the ability to have times of rest during a busy holiday season and launch month.
  • For excellence in storytelling as they work on future projects.
  • For those who will receive one of their books (or other books by Christian authors) for gifts this year to be impacted by the message they contain.

It’s a joy to have such a great group of readers joining us in prayer for these authors. Thank you so much for doing so!