Guest Post: When a Book Cover Comes to Life by Regina Jennings

(When I saw Regina’s fun travel album on Facebook, I knew she had to share the fun with all of us here on the blog. Enjoy!)

The wonder of reading a well-written historical novel is that feeling that we’ve stepped into a world that now only exists in the pages of a book. Then again, sometimes history is resurrected, and it’s just as glorious as you’d hoped.

In late September, the U.S. Cavalry Association held their Bivouac and National Cavalry Competition at Fort Reno, Oklahoma—the setting of my current series. Once again, the fort sounded with pounding hooves, stirring bugles, and that bluster and swagger that occurs before any contest. Now, I’m always supportive of events that honor our past, but this was at the fort…my fort! It was like I was standing beside Louisa and Major Adams watching the goings-on at the parade grounds.

In Holding the Fort, most of the story takes place in the General’s House, which was the residence of the highest-ranking officer on the post. The General’s House had a central view of the parade grounds where the men drilled.

Here, in front of the General’s House, a participant competes in the Mounted Saber competition. The obstacle course includes spearing rings on the blade, slicing through apples, popping balloons and stabbing targets on the ground.

Another competition was Military Field Jumping. Behind this soldier you can see the long barracks that the troopers like Bradley Willis stayed in.

Besides combat horsemanship, mounted sabers, and military field jumping, they were also judged on the authenticity of the era they were portraying. Participants had several different categories that they could choose from. Naturally, I was drawn to those portraying soldiers from the Plains Indian Campaigns, since that’s the time I’m writing about.

These two soldiers are currently stationed at Fort Carson, but they were representing troopers from Fort Concho, Texas, during the Plains Indian Conflicts.

They are judged on the historical detail of their uniforms, weapons, gear, and tack. Finding these guys is a researcher’s dream! I learned that they would’ve carried more ammunition than food, but if you have ammo, usually you can get food. There’s not much room in those bags for fluff, but they liked having both a canteen and a tin cup.

And even though it was a toasty day, they favor the caped overcoat when they want to make an impression. I have to agree with them.

See the heart on the breast collar of the horse –

According to these presenters, the heart meant that the horse had already seen combat. Is that true? I haven’t found that referenced anywhere else, but I’m open to the possibility.

My meeting with these guys set up the moment that will always be one of my favorite writer memories– the time my book cover came to life. A member of their unit was competing in the Mounted Saber course, when I realized that it was a scene straight out of my book The Lieutenant’s Bargain (releasing Dec. 4th).

See that house behind him?

See the house on my book cover?

It’s the same! And while Lieutenant Jack isn’t wearing his caped coat on the cover, you’d better believe it’s a big part of the story!

I’m so grateful that our military encourages their young members to keep the legacy of their units alive through events like this, and I’m doubly grateful that they choose to hold the contests at historical sites. I’d imagine if walls could talk, the buildings at Fort Reno would say that they miss the rowdy cavalrymen and the spirited horses that used to populate their grounds.

There’s just something right about bringing the cavalry back to Fort Reno.

Thanks, Regina! And readers, if you haven’t been introduced to her Fort Reno series, now is the perfect time…the ebook of Book One, Holding the Fort, is on sale for $1.99 for October 2018. Check it out!

Have you ever visited a place that was also the setting of a favorite book? What similarities did you notice?

Ask BHP: What Changes Are Made to Covers?

Cover design is always a popular topic in our Ask BHP poll, and this reader wants to know: “I’d like to hear a little bit about the cover design process. Specifically, I know there’s a group that approves or asks for changes to covers. What are the most common things you change?”

At our first meeting, editorial and marketing representatives meet with our creative director to talk about their vision for the covers of that season’s books—usually about 15-16. All will have read the synopsis (the book is rarely finished at this point), and they’ll bring covers they really like or other visual aids. The creative director, Paul Higdon, then translates this feedback to the designers.

For the next stage, the team is mostly looking at pencil sketches or stock photo approximations of what the poses for a cover might look like, especially when there will be a photoshoot of one or more models. This is the point to say, “Wait, that’s a totally different direction than the first two books in the series,” or “I think the silhouette is a better idea than the split-scene” or “Let’s be sure to have her outdoors instead of inside.”

Later, after many hundreds of hours of work on photoshoots and Photoshop, the designer will present a semi-final version of the cover…actually, usually 6-10 different versions. Some are in totally different styles and tones, others are similar with smaller variations on the type or model pose. We’ll give another round of feedback, this time more specific as to what we like or don’t like, voting on our favorite designs.

One of our designers, Jenny Parker, said, “The designers probably have the best idea of what an author goes through, because we have our art critiqued by others—sometimes while we’re in the room! Then it’s time to take that feedback and make changes.”

And that’s a hard task, especially because most of us have vague instincts like, “That type is hard to read” or “something about that model’s expression looks unpleasant” or “the color pallet just seems off.” They might be true statements, but the designer has to find the way forward to actually do what the team members are suggesting.

Once we agree on the right design (or a Franken-combo of designs), there are still tweaks to be made. At the near-final stage, here are some recent comments jotted down in meeting notes.

  • Check with the author to make sure those earrings are appropriate for the time period. It might be fine.
  • I’m not loving the series logo…can we get rid of some of the froufy frilly things around the text?
  • The woman’s dress is really close to the blue dress of the first book in the series. Let’s make it more teal, or a different color altogether.
  • Will the author like this? Because it’s a very different direction than what we’ve done for her in the past.
  • So…no one else thinks the guy in the background on Cover 3 looks creepy? (Consensus: we did not go with Cover 3.)
  • Let’s make sure to get her hair a little darker. It’s edging toward blond, and she clearly has light brown hair from the character description.
  • The author’s name should be in a thicker type to make it easier to read.
  • Does the pose look like a “strong, independent woman” or just over-the-top to you?

Then…more designer magic happens, and the final cover is sent to the author for feedback, as well as to members of our sales team for approval. Once everything is set to go, it gets placed in our catalog, the one that the sales team uses when presenting to bookstores (usually 8-10 months before release).

Here are some examples of those middle stages in the process. For Tracie Peterson’s new series (releasing in March 2019), our creative team asked if Jenny could have a large face above Western scenery as a way to set the series apart. Here are a few of the options we saw.

…but interestingly enough, Jenny put in a few designs with a totally different feel, trying to imitate a Wild West poster. Everyone loved that direction, even though it was different than what we had originally suggested. We had different poses to choose from in that design, and this is the one we went with after a few tweaks, the final cover of When You Are Near.

So there you have it, a small glimpse into the world of book cover design. Hope you enjoyed it!

What’s a cover that stood out to you recently? It can be in any genre.

Prayer for Authors: October 2018

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 October:

Lynn Austin
Mary Connealy
Connilyn Cossette
Kristi Ann Hunter
Sarah Loudin Thomas
Becky Wade
Karen Witemeyer

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.

Turn your ear to listen to me; rescue me quickly. Be my rock of protection, a fortress where I will be safe.”—Psalm 31:2 (ESV)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For times of retreat and relaxation in the middle of a busy schedule.
  • For the right readers to pick up these books at just the right times.
  • For discipline when starting new writing projects in the middle of releasing this one.

Many thanks to all of you readers who join with us to pray for our authors and their books. It means a lot to us!

October 2018 New Releases

Welcome to our list of new releases this month! Each time I get a delivery of our latest books, I’m always thankful for these talented authors who put in long hours to bring us page-turning tales. Enjoy the variety found here, and remember to click on the covers to start reading an excerpt!

Legacy of Mercy by Lynn Austin

Plot Summary: Socialite Anna Nicholson can’t seem to focus on her upcoming marriage. The new information she’s learned about her past continues to pull at her, so she hires Pinkerton detectives to help her find the truth. But when unflattering stories threaten her reputation and engagement, she discovers that God’s purpose for her life isn’t as simple as she had hoped.

The Christmas Heirloom by Karen Witemeyer, Kristi Ann Hunter, Sarah Loudin Thomas, and Becky Wade

Plot Summary: In this sweet collection of novellas by award-winning, bestselling authors, four charming romances are connected by an heirloom brooch passed down for over 200 years. This multigenerational compilation includes Kristi Hunter’s Legacy of Love, Karen Witemeyer’s Gift of the Heart, Sarah Loudin Thomas’s A Shot at Love, and Becky Wade’s Because of You.

The Reluctant Warrior by Mary Connealy

Plot Summary: Newly reunited with his daughter and nephew, Cameron Scott wonders if they will ever love him again. When he’s hurt protecting them, he finds himself under the care of the stubborn but beautiful Gwen Harkness—and he sees why the kids love her so. As she helps him win back their hearts, he finds himself wanting to win hers as well.

Shelter of the Most High by Connilyn Cossette

Plot Summary: After her village is destroyed by marauders, Sofea seeks solace in a Levitical city of refuge. Eitan is immediately captivated by her but knows that revealing his most guarded secret could mean drawing Sofea into the danger of his past. As threats from outside the walls loom, will they be able to save their lives and the lives of those they love?

Readers, what is your favorite genre to go back to? Is there a genre you know others love but that you just can’t get into?

Which Dresses Match These Book Covers?

I can’t tell you how many times readers have commented on some of our authors’ covers to say, “Wow! I wish a dress like this was around today, because I’d totally wear it.”

Well, just for fun, I thought I’d search some fashion websites for dresses that look like they could have been inspired by book covers. So if you want to imitate the “look” of your favorite novel, you know where to go.

Would you want to wear this one in the swamps of Louisiana? Probably not. But this empire dress has an updated version of the pattern-overlay in gold, plus that bow mimicking the lace-up back of the original design. Add a little lace, and you might feel a little like Julianne Chevalier from The Mark of the King.

The color here is nearly spot-on and the Victorian-inspired details in both are fun, but what really makes this teal lace dress the twin for The Heart’s Appeal is that it’s called “London Exquisite Elegance,” the same setting as the book!

If you love the art-deco look of the early 1900s, this cranberry maxi dress is the one for you. The beadwork on both shares the same intricate style, though you might want to invest in some jewelry for the modern outfit…just make sure it’s not going to involve you in a plot of intrigue like the jewels in The Reluctant Duchess!

This mint formal gown has the fun layers and elegance of the one on With Every Breath. And, let’s be real, the heroine on the cover is breathless because she’s literally finding the cure for tuberculosis, whereas the modern model probably just can’t breathe in a dress that fits like that.

This midi dress has the same causal feel of its counterpart a century before, with a similar V-neckline…and while the modern dress might have a higher hemline, it’s also advertised as a yachting dress, so she and the heroine of Out of the Ordinary have a lot in common.

You’d need a lot of daring to pull off this bright red flare dress…just like the scheming protagonist of A Match Made in Texas. Here, the bow on the bustle becomes a bow-tied neckline, but it’s got all the bold style of the original.

The plaid on the trim of With You Always translates to a larger print in the 21st century skater dress, but the collar and silhouette are similar, and both seem like they’d be comfortable and stylish for travel (probably not by train, though).

Okay, readers, which of these dresses is your favorite? (Authors, this might be a fun game to play on Facebook with your fans to find photos of “lookalike” fashion!)

Ask BHP: What Books Are You Excited About?

One reader asks, “Can you tell me some books/authors you’re really excited about and want to make sure everyone reads?”

Well, I already wrote a post about my favorite Bethany House book (spoiler: it was published in 1993), so long-time readers will know that I can’t pick among current authors. It would be way too hard.

But since “ALL our books” isn’t a long enough answer for a blog post, I’ll reply by saying that today, I’m especially excited about Bethany House books that were nominated for Christy and Carol Awards. The Carol Award winners will be announced this Saturday at the ACFW conference, and the Christy winners at an award ceremony in November, but to me, all of these titles are winners already.

Chances are you haven’t read all of these yet, so add them to your list—they’ve got a seal of approval from some pretty discerning judges (and me, of course).

True to You by Becky Wade

Plot Summary: 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?

The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright

Plot Summary: Fleeing a stalker, Kaine Prescott purchases an old house sight unseen in Wisconsin, which turns out to have a dark history: a century earlier, an unidentified woman was found dead on the grounds. As Kaine tries to settle in, she learns the story of her ancestor Ivy Thorpe, who, with the help of a man from her past, tried to uncover the truth about the death.

A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden

Plot Summary: Telegraph operator Lucy Drake is a master of Morse code, but the presence of Sir Colin Beckwith at a rival news agency puts her livelihood at risk. When Colin’s reputation is jeopardized, Lucy agrees to help in exchange for his assistance in recovering her family’s stolen fortune. However, the web of treachery they’re diving into is more dangerous than they know.

A Plain Leaving by Leslie Gould

Plot Summary: Returning for her father’s funeral, Jessica faces the Amish life—and love—she left behind years prior. Struggling with regrets, she learns about the life of a Revolutionary War–era ancestor who confronted some of the same choices she has. Will Jessica find peace during her visit, along with the resolution she hopes for?

A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexander

Plot Summary: Despite her training as a master violinist, Rebekah Carrington was denied entry into the Nashville Philharmonic by young conductor Nathaniel Whitcomb, who bowed to public opinion. Now, with a reluctant muse and a recurring pain in his head, he needs her help to finish his symphony. But how can he win back her trust when he’s robbed her of her dream?

Heart on the Line by Karen Witemeyer

Plot Summary: Grace Mallory is tired of running. But when she learns that the villain who killed her father is closing in, she has no choice. Grace is waylaid, however, by Amos Bledsoe, who hopes to continue their telegraph courtship in person. With Grace’s life—and his heart—on the line, can Amos shed his shyness and become the hero she requires?

An Awakened Heart by Jody Hedlund – a free ebook novella!

Plot Summary: Longing to do more with her privileged life, Christine Pendelton begins volunteering at Centre Street Chapel. There she meets Guy Bedell, a pastor who shares her heart for the less fortunate. When Christine challenges Guy’s methods of helping, can they find a new way to reach out to the poor—and to connect with each other?

King’s Blood by Jill Williamson

Plot Summary: After the foretold destruction of the Five Realms, the remnant that escaped by sea searches for a new home. As the king’s health worsens, Sâr Wilek assumes command and struggles to rule the disjointed people, while assassination attempts and dark magic endanger his life. One prophecy has come to pass, but another looms in the future: Who is this Deliverer?

Okay, readers: out of the books above, how many have you read?

Books with Teacher Heroines

Since schools all around the country have started up this month, it seemed like a great time to share some of our recent books that feature teachers of the past. These heroines might have a more exciting life than a local educator you know (hopefully things like kidnappings, secret identities, and natural disasters aren’t terribly common at your school), but they share the same love: helping students learn.

Playing by Heart by Anne Mateer

Playing by Heart by Anne Mateer

Plot Summary:

Plot Summary: Determined to prove herself, Lula commits to a teaching job for a year, even though the subjects—music and basketball—are ones she looks down on as a mathematician. When she reluctantly turns to the boys’ coach, Chet, for help, she’ll learn more than she ever expected about life and love.

Undaunted Hope by Jody Hedlund

Plot Summary:

Plot Summary: When Tessa Taylor arrives in Eagle Harbor, Michigan, she is dismayed to learn there has been a mistake—the town requested a male teacher. Mercifully, they agree to let her stay temporarily. As she settles in to her new life, two brothers begin vying for her hand, but an unknown danger seems to haunt her steps. Clearly, someone doesn’t want her to stay.

A Bride at Last by Melissa Jagears

Plot Summary: Silas and Kate both harbor resentment over failed mail-order engagements. When a common interest in an orphaned student leads to an interest in each other, they begin to think they can overcome their rocky start. But neither is prepared for the secrets that have yet to come to light. Can they move beyond past hurts and find hope?

Holding the Fort by Regina Jennings

Plot Summary: When dance hall singer Louisa Bell visits Fort Reno to see her brother, she is mistaken for the tutor that the harried Major Daniel Adams is waiting for. Between his rowdy troops and his two daughters, he has more responsibility than he can handle alone. Eager for the opportunity, Louisa sets out to show the widower that she is a perfect fit.

The Tutor’s Daughter by Julie Klassen

Plot Summary: Emma Smallwood and her father have come to the Cornish coast to tutor the youngest sons of a baronet—but all is not as it seems. When mysterious things begin to happen and danger mounts, can she figure out which brother to blame…and which to trust with her heart?

A Worthy Pursuit by Karen Witemeyer

Plot Summary: When a wealthy railroad investor hires him to find his abducted granddaughter, legendary tracker Stone eagerly accepts the job. But instead of a hardened criminal, he finds Charlotte, a teacher on the run determined to protected the child in her care. Will Charlotte and Stone decide to trust each other before they both lose what they hold most dear?

Where Courage Calls by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan

Plot Summary: Inspired by her aunt Elizabeth, Beth Thatcher has accepted a teaching position in the rugged foothills of Canada. She resolves to put her trust in God and bravely face any challenge that comes her way. But the conditions in Coal Valley are worse than she’d feared. She is determined to make a difference…but how long can she last on the western frontier?   And to celebrate teachers, how about a giveaway? To enter, just comment below with the name of a favorite teacher and what you appreciated about him or her. I’ll chose three winners on Monday, September 17 to receive their choice of book from this list…and another to give to a friend or family member who teaches.

September 2018 New Releases

In this month’s round of new releases, you’ll find espionage, revival meetings, natural disasters, and plenty of dangerous secrets. Whether you prefer a romantic read or page-turning suspense, there’s something here for you. Click on a cover that catches your eye to read an excerpt, and enjoy a fall filled with great books!

The First Love by Beverly Lewis

Plot Summary: In the summer of 1951, Amishwoman Maggie Esh is struggling with a debilitating illness and few future prospects. When tent revival meetings come to the area, Maggie attends out of curiosity. She’s been told to accept her lot in life as God’s will, but the words of the evangelist begin to stir something deep inside her. Dare she hope for a brighter future?

An Hour Unspent by Roseanna M. White

Plot Summary: As England plunges into war, Barclay Pearce uses his skills as a thief to help his nation. But upon rescuing Evelina Manning from a mugging, he begins to wonder what his future might hold. When her father’s invention gives England a military edge, the whole family is in danger—and it may just take a reformed thief to steal the time they need to escape it.

In Times Gone By by Tracie Peterson

Plot Summary: After getting left at the altar, Kenzie Gifford flees to San Francisco, determined to never love again. But when an earthquake devastates the city and the life she’s built there, Kenzie finds herself facing a hidden danger—and two men set on winning her heart. With her life—and heart—on the line, who can she trust?

The Cost of Betrayal by Dee Henderson, Dani Pettrey, and Lynette Eason

Plot Summary: Three bestselling Christian romantic suspense authors team up in this intense novella collection. In Henderson’s Betrayed, a woman cleared of a murder she didn’t commit faces another deadly betrayal. In Pettrey’s Deadly Isle, a couple is trapped on an island with a murderer. And in Eason’s Code of Ethics, two people must outrun the killers hunting them.

Readers, we want to know: for you, what is something a novel has to have to move you from “I liked it” to “I LOVED it”?

Prayer for Authors: September 2018

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 September:

Lynette Eason
Dee Henderson
Beverly Lewis
Tracie Peterson
Dani Pettrey
Roseanna M. White

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.

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”—Isaiah 26:3 (ESV)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For peace when considering new or current career challenges or opportunities.
  • For experiences and connections that will be helpful when writing their next project.
  • For readers to find hope in the pages of books releasing this month.

As this new month begins, we want to say again that we always appreciate having such a great group of readers join us in this time of prayer. Thank you!

 

Summer Reading Giveaway

Since this August has a fifth Thursday, we thought it would be fun to shake up the blogging schedule and include a giveaway! As the lazy vacation days of summer slowly end, you might have to be more creative about finding a good place to sneak a few pages of your latest novel, but thankfully, reading is a year-round hobby.

We’d like to give away three prize package of all four of our August releases. There are three ways you can enter to win.

On Tuesday, September 4, we’ll pick one winner from our list of blog followers (enter your email in the sidebar to the left if you haven’t already)…

One from our Instagram subscribers

And one from the comments on this post, answering the question, “What is a great book you read this summer?”

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy your Labor Day weekend, and maybe sneak a little reading time in as well.