A Wallflower Ball: Fun with Jen Turano!

Great news, readers! (Any sentence involving “free” and “books” gets my attention, anyway.)

Jen Turano’s new Apart From the Crowd series, following a group of wallflowers in their adventures in New York society, launches this month with a free ebook novella!

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You can download it from your favorite ebook retailer (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, CBD).

To celebrate, I asked Jen if she’d take us into the world of her characters during one of the Gilded Age social events where everyone wanted an invitation: a ball at the Astor House.

And here it is, one of the most ostentatious mansions New York has ever seen:

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Inside, the atmosphere would be charged with rumors and romance and possibly a bit of danger and intrigue. It might look something like this:

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Of course, dinner would be served. Here is a typical menu from the Gilded Age:

First Course
Julienne or Vermicelli Soup

Second Course
Broiled Salmon
Turbot in Lobster Sauce
Filet de Soles
Red Mullet
Trout
Lobster Rissoles

Entrees
Canards a la Rouennaise
Mutton Cutlets
Braised Beef
Spring Chicken
Roast Quarter of Lamb
Tongue
Roast Saddle of Mutton
Whitebait

Third Course
Quails
Roast Duck
Mayonnaise of Chicken
Green Peas
Charlotte Russe
Strawberries
Compote of Cherries
Neapolitan Cakes
Madiera Wine

Or you could take a walk outside, perhaps down to Central Park for some ice skating:

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This might be what Wilhelmina looked like bundled up for a wintery afternoon outdoors:

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And here’s a typical gown like her friend Permilia might have worn to the ball:

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Speaking of gorgeous dresses, take a look at the one on the cover of Jen’s upcoming release, Behind the Scenes! (Doesn’t it remind you of the research photo above that Jen sent to our designers?)

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There’s an extended excerpt of the first book in the series within the ebook novella of At Your Request, so you can get started on it before anyone else.

To keep the fun going, we’re going to give away two copies of Behind the Scenes! To enter, comment on this post with the answer to one, or all, of these questions: If you were attending a Gilded Age ball, what color would your dress be? Which foods on the menu look most and least appetizing? Would you give ice skating a try?

Winners will be listed in next week’s blog post on January 19. (If you are an international reader, you can still enter, but I will substitute the book with an Amazon egift card because of the cost of shipping.)

The Bookshelf Game (and Giveaway)

Let’s play a little game, just for fun.

Since today is 9/22, take a book off your shelf, then go to page 22 and pick a random excerpt starting on that page. Then count nine books away from your first book, turn to page 22 there, and pick an excerpt to add to the starting half you picked from the first book. (You can determine where to start it and how much to use. Feel free to look for parts that would make the story more coherent or funnier!)

I tried this myself to give you some examples. A few of my favorites:

“While I don’t doubt my ability to complete the accounting portion of the business, I’ll need a jug full of grape juice.”

Taken from: The Artisan’s Wife by Judith Miller, Love Comes Calling by Siri Mitchell

Her relationship with her daughter had never been easy, particularly since she had died from some disease in a South American hospital.

Taken from: The Midwife’s Dilemma by Delia Parr and A Sensible Arrangement by Tracie Peterson Continue reading

Celebrating our Award Nominees and Winners!

It’s award season, and with it comes recognition for some great books! The Carol award finalists were announced earlier this week, with winners to be presented at the ACFW conference in August. Several were from the Bethany House family, and I’m excited to show them off. You can click on each cover to read an excerpt.

Contemporary:

Finding Me
Finding Me by Kathryn Cushman

After her father’s death, Kelli discovers a shocking secret: She has a family she’s never known. She may want answers, but are some doors better left shut?

Historical Romance:

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Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden

When a librarian and a prominent congressman join forces to solve a mystery, they become entangled in secrets more perilous than they could have ever imagined.

Worthy Pursuit

A Worthy Pursuit by Karen Witemeyer

A teacher on the run. A tracker in pursuit. Can Charlotte and Stone learn to trust each other before they both lose what they hold most dear?

Romance:

Until the Harvest

Until the Harvest by Sarah Loudin Thomas

When a family tragedy derails his studies, Henry returns home feeling lost. Can a gifted young girl and her older sister help him find his way again?

Young Adult:

Dauntless

Dauntless by Dina L. Sleiman

Timothy Grey plans to earn a title by capturing Lady Merry and her band of orphan thieves. But will he carry out his mission when he meets their dauntless leader face-to-face?

Also, a special congratulations to Susan Anne Mason for winning a Christy Award in the Best First Novel category for Irish Meadows. Irish Meadows also joined Taken by Dee Henderson and The Painter’s Daughter by Julie Klassen to win Christian Retailing’s Best Awards. Also recently announced was Patrick W. Carr’s INSPY award win for The Shock of Night. We’re excited for you!

To celebrate, we’re doing a giveaway on the blog. Comment below with an answer to this question: what’s a time period or setting you would enjoy reading a novel about? I’ll choose 5 winners on Tuesday, July 5 to win their choice of one of these five Carol finalist titles. Winners will be notified by a reply to their comment.

RITA Finalists Giveaway

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

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

A Noble Masquerade by Kristi Ann Hunter

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

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

A Love Like Ours by Becky Wade

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

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

Toward the Sunrise by Elizabeth Camden

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

Toward the Sunrise

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

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

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

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

Celebrating Teen Read Week with Dina Sleiman and Bonnie Calhoun!

Next week, October 18-24 is Teen Read Week, according to the American Library Association. Many libraries have special programs or events to celebrate—check out your library to see if there’s something you can get involved in!

To celebrate, we’re chatting with and Bonnie Calhoun, author of the STONE BRAIDE CHRONICLES, and Dina Sleiman, author of the VALIANT HEARTS novels, both young adult series.

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Amy: What made you want to write a young adult novel?

Bonnie: I decided to write YA because young people are more interested in fast-paced plots and slightly wild scenarios. They tend to like more action than adults, and they don’t want to be talked down to, so there is no need to alter the language level for understanding. And the best part . . . the imagination of a YA reader is a wonderful thing! They are much more willing to suspend disbelief than adults.

Dina: Writing instructors say to picture one person you’re writing your novel for. I always pictured a young woman in her late teens or early twenties—a struggling Christian or searching unbeliever in need of guidance and inspiration. When I learned that the typical reader of adult Christian fiction is middle-aged, I realized YA might actually be a better fit for me. Young adult readers are looking for something more real and raw than their adult counterparts. They are hoping to see the world as it truly is and learn and grow through fiction. All of that makes YA a great fit for me. And to top it off, the medieval period, which I love, has traditionally been more appealing to young adult readers. Continue reading

Help Authors Be Social on Social Media

**Update: We have winners! Suzie and Samantha, please email me, Amy, at agreen@bethanyhouse.com with your mailing address. To everyone else, thank you, THANK YOU for your feedback! I’m compiling it all right now to present to authors at the conference, and I know they’ll find it extremely helpful!**

FeedbackWinners

Pretend I’m a Christian fiction author sitting down to host a focus group made up of you and a few of your reader friends.

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After offering you coffee and chocolate chip cookies (no, it’s not bribery; it’s hospitality) here’s what I want to know:

One: How have you seen social media used by authors in a way that really worked for you? (You can list the types of posts that get you to comment/click, give an example of something creative and fun you’ve seen an author do, or go in basically any direction you want with this.)

Two: If you knew an author was really busy with deadlines and only had time to interact with readers in one way, what would you suggest?

Three: What is something about the way authors sometimes use social media (or the way they phrase things) that annoys or bothers you? (No names, please…just general examples of the type of thing that bothers you.)

As you read these questions, do you know what your answers would be? Great! Now, let’s make it real. I’m going to be teaching a class at the ACFW conference in September with Melissa Tagg on Stress-Free Marketing for authors. That means we’re going to be giving lots of your favorite Christian fiction authors (and some future favorites!) tips on marketing and social media.

I’d love your feedback on these questions so I can give authors a reader perspective. If you could answer one or all of the questions in the comments on this post, that would help so much! (Just be sure to identify which question your answers are addressing.)

Since I can’t really send coffee and cookies your way, focus-group style, next Tuesday, I’ll pick two random commenters who will each receive copies of our two August releases, The Potter’s Lady by Judith Miller and Not by Sight by Kate Breslin. Winners will be posted in this post by noon on Tuesday, so be sure to check back!

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Be as thoughtful with your answers as you can…remember, I’m actually going to pass these answers on to some of your favorite authors from a number of different publishing companies! And thanks in advance for your help…I’m excited to read your thoughts!

Bethany House Summer Photo Challenge

It’s the start of summer, and for many of us, that means a chance to relax with a good book in some interesting locations. Whether you’re going across the state to a national park, across the ocean to a classic tourist destination, or across the street to your favorite coffee shop, there’s no summer day that can’t be made better by a good book.

PhotoContest

Jen, one of our editors, came to me with this idea: Why not ask people to share pictures of themselves with a favorite Bethany House book wherever they are this summer? And since I love stealing great ideas from other people, I thought I’d share the fun with all of you.

Here’s how it works: Take a picture of yourself with a favorite Bethany House book, fiction or nonfiction, and show us where you’re reading it.

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Not sure if it’s a Bethany House book? Look on the spine for the BHP logo.

Then enter the contest here by either uploading your photo to the entry form or posting your picture on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with the hashtag #BHPsummerreads. NOTE: the setting of the post on Facebook must be set to “public.” (When posting, you can do this by clicking the button underneath the post and changing it from “Friends” to “Public.”) At the end of the month, we’ll go through and post some of your pictures in a collage here and on our social media (so make sure it’s a photo you’re okay with us sharing).

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In August, we’ll allow you and other readers to vote on your favorite photo from the gallery. (Details are on the contest page.) If you need some inspiration, here are a few BHP examples:

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Amy Green, fiction publicist, reading Until the Harvest by Sarah Loudin Thomas in a tree. (I actually do this pretty often.)

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Jen Veilleux, fiction editor, reading The Lady of Bolton Hill by Elizabeth Camden at a dog park (with an ice cream sandwich!).

Thanks for joining in the fun, everyone! If you have any questions, post them in the comments—someone else might have that question as well. Here are a few FAQs (or questions we think will be frequently asked):

Q: I have two books I really want to take a picture with! Can I submit more than one photo?

A: Sure, go ahead! (Just don’t go overboard and submit a dozen.)

Q: When I went to your contest, it told me I have to give Woobox access to my personal information! I don’t want to do that!

A: Well, that’s not really a question, but let me give you a reassuring answer anyway. Woobox contests all show those disclaimers by default because their forms give us the option to record your personal information and demographics. However, Bethany House does not use that option. The only information we will collect is what you give us, and that will only be used for the purpose of the contest (i.e., mailing prizes). We wish we could make that disclaimer go away, since it doesn’t apply, but we can’t.

Q: I’m a reader from outside the United States. Can I enter?

A: We’d love for you to submit a photo (because it’s fun, right?), but due to shipping costs, we have to restrict winners of the book package to the U.S. Since the entry form requires you to choose a state, you can enter by using the #BHPsummerreads on social media.

Q: If I choose to enter on social media instead of through the form, where do I put the hashtag?

A: Make sure it’s in the caption (not, say, a comment on Facebook or Instagram, which won’t work).

Where will Bethany House take you this summer?

Guest Interview and Giveaway: Historical Fiction with Susan Anne Mason

***Update: Here are the randomly-chosen winners of the ARC of Irish Meadows! Winners, please email agreen@bethanyhouse.com with your mailing address so I can send you your ARC!**

IrishWinners

Today, we’re welcoming Susan Anne Mason to the blog! Susan’s very first historical novel, Irish Meadows, will be releasing in July. Since she and her books might be new to you, I thought I’d invite you to get to know her a little better.

Amy: Every author has a unique how-I-got-published story. What’s yours?

Susan Anne MasonSusan: Getting published was a long and winding road, taking over ten years! That being said, I realize now that I wasn’t ready to be published earlier on in my career. I needed to learn and grow.

I entered Irish Meadows in a writing contest called “Fiction from the Heartland” — mainly because I saw that editor Dave Long of Bethany House was a judge in the finalist round. I hoped my entry would make it to the finals, mainly to get feedback from a Bethany House editor. I thought this would help me get a feel for the type of writing they were looking for. In the meantime, I pitched the story to agents and editors at a national conference and got a lot of blank stares and negative feedback. So I really didn’t have high expectations for the contest.

To my great surprise and delight, Irish Meadows won the contest and Dave requested the full manuscript! Not long after, he told me he loved the story and was going to present the book at an upcoming acquisitions meeting. About a week later, I got an email indicating they wanted to offer a 3-book contract. Final approval was given and the rest as they say is history!

So I can’t stress enough the importance of entering contests! It only takes one person to love your work!

Amy: What has been the hardest part of the writing or editing process so far? What have you enjoyed more than you expected?  

Susan: As far as actually writing the story, getting the plot nailed down is the hardest thing for me. Characters come easily, but getting the timeline and plot right remains a challenge.

As far as the editing process goes, I have been very lucky with my edits. However I just finished a round of revision for the sequel to Irish Meadows, called A Worthy Heart, which were extremely challenging. I had to change some key plot elements which meant following these changes through the whole story. For instance, moving a scene from the middle of the book to the beginning changes many little details throughout the rest of the story. This was quite daunting, and I only hope I did the story justice and that my editor will be happy with them.

Amy: With Irish Meadows, what came to you first? A bit of the plot, a character, a theme, a particular situation or line of dialogue?

Susan: To answer this, I had to go back and look at my initial notes for this story! I had written down: Ideas for an Irish Family Saga along the lines of The Thornbirds!  I loved the premise of The Thornbirds, where a priest falls in love with a young woman in outback Australia— the classic forbidden love scenario really appealed to me. I had also recently read a book that included two complete romances, and I loved that format. So I decided to concentrate on two of the O’Leary daughters and their intertwined paths to romance. Both fall in love with men who are deemed ‘forbidden’ by their father and must defy him to find their happily ever after. So, I suppose the idea of the family came first, and I built a plot around them.

IrishMeadows_mck.inddAmy: When readers finish Irish Meadows, what would you be excited to hear that they took away from it?

Susan: I would love it if the readers fell in love with the whole O’Leary clan! I would also love it if readers got a sense of the theme of the book — that of being true to oneself. Each of the characters struggles with having to do things to please someone else, things that might go against their own individual values, and each one has to come to terms with this in his or her own way.

And thirdly, the message that I love to get across in all my books is the unconditional love of God for every one of us. A message of hope and love and worthiness.

Amy: Any encouragement you’d like to give to other aspiring writers out there?

Susan: My advice to aspiring writers is to never give up! If you really want to be an author, it takes hard work. Persistence and perseverance are key. Learn the craft and keep writing, because the more you write, the better you’ll get. Eventually you will find your own path to publication!

Obviously, since Irish Meadows doesn’t release until July, we can’t give away any copies of the final book. However, we’re doing something extra-special and giving away Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) to two readers! (That means you get to read it a month before anyone else!) To enter, please comment below with the time period of history you’d most like to live in (besides our own), and why. Winners will be posted at noon Central on Tuesday, June 2, so check back then to see if you’ve won!

The Lost Art of Letter Writing – A Giveaway with Beverly Lewis

**Update: I’ve chosen our two winners at random…but let me tell you, it was so encouraging to read about the people in your lives that mean a lot to you! And I’m sure they appreciated hearing from you, so thanks to everyone for participating. Here are the winning comments:

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Winners, please email me, Amy, at agreen@bethanyhouse.com with your mailing address. I’ll send you The Love Letters and give you your options for your bonus book!

“Three books of stamps, please,” I said to the man behind the counter.

He stared at me for a second. As the only twenty-something in the post office line, I guess I stood out. “You gettin’ married? These for wedding invitations?”

I shook my head. “I just like writing letters.”

Another squinty, appraising look. “Email’s quicker, you know.”

Sigh. “I know. But…I’ll take three books of stamps, please.”

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These are the stamps I’m using right now.

 

Let’s face it: people don’t write letters anymore. And I think that’s just a shame, because there are few things more exciting than actually getting a letter that isn’t a bill, another credit card application, or coupons to the local Chinese buffet. When someone gets something in the mail with your real, actual handwriting and a personal note, it means so much more than seeing your status on Facebook. It means you took the time to drop them a line because you care about them.

If you need a little encouragement to use those stamps that have been languishing in your junk drawer, here are some practical tips for being a letter writer in a fast-paced world.

Amy’s Tips for Letter Writing

  • Buy a pack of postcards or small, cute notecards and keep one or two in your purse. Then, when you are sitting in the dentist’s office or waiting for a friend to show up at lunch, you can jot down a few lines.
  • Letters don’t have to be long, complete life updates. A short “thinking of you” note with a question for the other person and a sentence or two about something you’ve enjoyed doing lately is just as appreciated as a four-page soliloquy (probably more!).
  • Ask people for their addresses in a private Facebook message or via email. That way, you’ll be able to search for it again in the future.
  • Sending a card out of the blue with a Bible verse or something you appreciate about another person is one of the most thoughtful things you can do. It might be exactly the encouragement that person needs in that moment. Yes, it takes a little time, but knowing you took that time is part of the gift you’re giving the other person. It means more than you might think.
  • If you’re more of the send-a-package-or-gift type of person, it’s amazing the number of fun items you can send directly through the mail without boxing them up. Here’s a handy site giving you some creative ideas…I have personally tried the box of candy, Frisbee, and box of crayons.
Lately, I've had these Pixar-themed postcards tucked away in my purse.

Lately, I’ve had these Pixar-themed postcards tucked away in my purse.

One people group certainly hasn’t lost touch with the art of writing letters: the Amish. As Beverly Lewis puts it, “Can you imagine not having access to email, IM, Twitter, or Facebook messaging to stay connected with friends and family? Amish women don’t have that ‘real-time’ luxury, of course, but they do enjoy writing and sending pen pal letters and ‘circle letters,’ via snail mail—some as often as twice weekly. Sharing with extended family members in other cities or states is important, as is church-related news. Many of my Amish friends pen their letters on pretty store-bought stationery, or add their own floral drawings and artwork to plain paper, while others use a lined tablet for their heartfelt ‘reveals.’ Love letters, birthday cards, and encouragement notes are often saved for a rainy day, to be re-read and cherished anew.”

Love LettersThat’s one theme of Beverly Lewis’s new novel, The Love Letters. In it, an Amish family encounters a homeless man whose most treasured possession is a clutch of handwritten letters. As the story progresses, those letters—and the heartfelt words inside them—slowly change the other characters and help them to better love those around them.

And with that, we here at Bethany House would like to issue a challenge to you:

We’re going to give away three copies of The Love Letters, and each winner will also get a chance to choose a bonus Bethany House book for themselves and one to be sent to a friend.

How can you enter? It’s simple: write a letter or a card to someone you care about. Then comment on this post with the name of the recipient of your letter and one thing you appreciate about him or her. (We’re going on the honor system here…but be sure to actually send those letters!) I’ll draw the three names randomly from the comments and post the winners here on Wednesday, May 6, so be sure to check back!

Sabotaged Release Race

In Sabotaged, Alaska’s iconic Iditarod sled race becomes a race against danger of a different kind for Kirra Jacobs and the McKenna family.

The actual Iditarod race doesn’t start for another 22 days (you can view the official website here), but I thought it would be fun to have our own competition here on the blog. Whether you’re a long-time McKenna fan who wants to help promote the series or a newcomer to Dani Pettrey’s suspense novels, here are some fun “checkpoints” to celebrate Sabotaged’s release.

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The Grand Prize winner will receive a BHP suspense package, including the entire Alaskan Courage series, Deadly Echoes by Nancy Mehl, and an autographed hardcover copy of Unspoken by Dee Henderson. And, just for fun, a $20 Starbucks gift card so you can drink something warm while reading to keep the winter chill away.

Three second prize winners will receive a copy of Sabotaged (or Submerged, the first in the series, if they prefer).

Wouldn't these books look great on your shelf? (Or a friend's if you already own them!)

Wouldn’t these books look great on your shelf? (Or a friend’s if you already own them!)

To enter: the only thing you have to do to enter the race is comment on this blog post with name of your favorite book in the Alaskan Courage series. (I know, I know…it’s an impossible question.)

However, the more checkpoints you complete, the more chances you’ll have to win. Here are the categories you’ll find in the base camp entry form at the end of the blog post:

Checkpoint One: Visit Dani’s Sabotaged Pinterest board. If you have a Pinterest account, pin the book cover on one of your boards! If you don’t, enter in the form what Russian item comes into play in this story (a picture of it is pinned on the board).

Checkpoint Two: Share on Facebook which McKenna character you get from this quiz. (There’s a social media share feature at the end of it so you can pass it along to all your reader friends!)

Checkpoint Three: Visit this contest or this interview for Sabotaged on The Christian Manifesto and comment on one of the posts. (If you want to enter the giveaway while you’re there, that’s great too!)

Checkpoint Four: Comment on or share a post from Dani’s author Facebook page. (Make sure you’ve “liked” it too!)

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This “base camp” entry form will be open until the end of February 18! Be sure to enter and spread the word to your friends—the race is on!

Base Camp Entry Form