Meet an Audiobook Narrator!

Audiobooks have taken off in the past several years, and we love that readers can experience their favorite books while they’re commuting, folding laundry, or working out. Sometimes readers will ask me questions about what goes into recording an audiobook…and I rarely know the answer. At Bethany House, we license our audio rights to places like Recorded Books to create and distribute the content, so there’s no sound studio down the hall from editorial where I can watch the process.

However, I’m excited to share this guest interview with you, from the talented Leah Horowitz. She’s narrated several Bethany House titles, most recently Things We Didn’t Say by Amy Lynn Green, A Gilded Lady by Elizabeth Camden, and The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus by Jaime Jo Wright. (You can follow her on Instagram at @theLeahReport.) She graciously agreed to share about some of the behind-the-scenes of how an audiobook comes to be.

Amy: What made you explore audiobook narration? How did you get started?

Leah: I’ve been a professional actor, working in musical theater on Broadway, for (eek) about 20 years. But my very favorite thing has always been reading. I had been interested in narrating books for a long time, and finally got a chance to start about a year ago, through a friend in the business. Since I also have a lot of experience recording music and cast albums, I immediately felt at home in the booth, and I still can’t believe I get to read for a living.

Amy: What do you do to prepare for a recording?

Leah: The very first thing I do is read the book! That often surprises people, but of course I need to get to know the plot and the characters, instead of reading it completely cold. As I read, I keep a list of the characters, and I also jot down any words I’m not sure how to pronounce. These are often place names, character names, and words in other languages. As soon as I finish, I send my word list in to the research department, and they send it back to me with all the words written out in IPA (international phonetic alphabet).

In the meantime, I think about the characters. Sometimes I cast famous actors in these “roles,” or people I know; anything to help me differentiate them for myself and the listener. I have found that getting the essence of a character works much better for me than just thinking, “this character has a very low/high/scratchy voice.” The more specific, the better! Sometimes the author’s descriptions of the characters are so evocative that I know who they are right away. Then I go into the booth with lots of bottles of water and hope for the best!

Amy: What’s something that listeners might not notice about the final audiobook that’s a lot of work on your part?

Leah: Probably how much the narrator stops and starts during the process. I certainly never thought about that before I started narrating. And I do think, the more you narrate, the longer the stretches you can talk smoothly without stopping. But even if you don’t have to stop to drink, cough, or scratch your nose, there are always other reasons to stop. You might come to one of those words you aren’t sure of and have to stop to consult the research list.

Also, during the pandemic I’ve been recording at home, in a closet (yup!), and our house is two blocks from train tracks, so I have to pause a few times an hour to let a train go by. Or my husband will slam a door downstairs, or a motorcycle will zoom by. So you stop, wait, then pick up from right before the pause/disturbance occurred. And because of all this, recording an hour of a book might take 75 minutes or even 2 hours! And the listener will never know. Well, I guess now they do.

Thanks so much for giving us a glimpse into your world, Leah! Talk to us, readers: when do you enjoy listening to audiobooks?

Deaf Representation in Fiction: A Conversation with Sarah Loudin Thomas

Hello, readers! It’s Rachael, and I’m here to share the conversation I had with Sarah Loudin Thomas about her new release, The Right Kind of Fool. As someone who has studied American Sign Language and Deaf culture over the years, I was thrilled when I found out Sarah would be writing this book, and I really wanted to learn more about her background and what went into her research process! I even got to model signs for her postcard—how exciting is that?

I hope you enjoy learning more about Sarah and her hero, Loyal!

About the Book:

When deaf teen Loyal Raines stumbles upon a dead body in the nearby river, his absentee father, Creed, is shocked the boy runs to him first. Pulled into the investigation, Creed discovers that it is the boy’s courage, not his inability to hear, that sets him apart, and he will have to do more than solve a murder if he wants to win his family’s hearts again.

Rachael: Thanks for chatting with me, Sarah! I’m curious, what inspired you to write The Right Kind of Fool?

Sarah: I was researching a completely different story about the unsolved murder of Mamie Thurman who was killed near Logan, WV, in 1932. As I was reading about it, I found an account that said her body was discovered by “a deaf, mute boy.” And my imagination was off and running! Who was he? What was it like to be deaf in a rural community where sign language wouldn’t have been commonly known? How did he tell the news and did he testify? I eventually found information about the trial that said he used “hand signs” in court. So I abandoned poor Mamie and made a thirteen-year-old deaf boy who is the hero of my story!

Rachael: I love how Loyal’s story drew you in! You’ve said before that the most remarkable thing about Loyal as a character isn’t his deafness. What would you say it is?

Sarah: Loyal is courageous, kind, and . . . well . . . loyal! He doesn’t think of himself as less than or handicapped because he’s deaf. He’s pretty confident about his abilities which just happen to be slightly different. And his goal is to demonstrate just how capable he is to the people he loves the most. And, I think, he’s pretty successful at it in the end!

Rachael: Loyal is amazing. It made me so happy to see you feature a deaf hero in your story! Why do you think deaf representation in fiction is important?

Sarah: If humans experience it, I think it’s fair game for representation in fiction. So much of storytelling is transporting the reader into another time or place or experience. It’s why we tell stories isn’t it? How many of us as kids tried walking around with our eyes closed to see what it’s like to be blind. Or with our hands over our ears to see what it’s like to be deaf. We have innate curiosity that I think can lead to understanding, empathy, and a deeper appreciation for each other. I love writing characters who are different from me so I can walk around in their shoes for a while! 

Rachael: That’s so true! Had you studied American Sign Language before writing this book? What inspired you to study it?

Sarah: I’d learned the basics thanks to my second grade teacher, Mrs. Lashley, back in grade school. I still knew the alphabet and a handful of signs. I’ve long thought it’s an incredibly beautiful way of communicating, and I love how facial expressions and body language are tied up in it. I’ve always had a terrible poker face so it’s nice to learn a little bit of a language where that’s part of the goal!

Rachael: I agree—it’s a fascinating language! What did your research process look like? Did you learn anything intriguing about the language while researching?

Sarah: I spent time on websites targeting the deaf community and I highly recommend a book called Seeing Voices by Oliver Sacks. That notion of SEEING language really resonated with me. I learned that it’s kind of annoying when hearing people do things like yell or talk really slowly. Neither of which helps in the least. And how reading lips is challenging and requires a great deal of focus and energy. Especially when hearing people do things like turn their heads or put their hands in front of their mouths. And while many deaf people CAN talk, they may prefer not to—Loyal expresses that at one point in the story.

Rachael: How did you go about weaving in sign language—a very visual practice—into a written story?

Sarah: I described key signs in a step-by-step way. Often, the signs are seen from the perspective of a hearing person. Like when Loyal’s father, Creed, sees that the sign for yes—a fisted hand moving up and down—looks like a head nodding. So many signs are pretty intuitive. For “hungry” you make a C-shape and touch the open side of the C to your chest, dragging it down toward your stomach, following the path food would go! I was also careful to include signs that could be described pretty simply—I’ll leave the more complex stuff to the experts!

Rachael: It was easy for me to visualize the signs while reading. You did a great job! How would you describe the way that communication is different between spoken and sign language?

Sarah: Wow—that’s a thinker! I can only share my observations since I really don’t use ASL to communicate. But I think sign is more visceral. It’s full-body communication so what a speaking person would put into tone and inflection comes through in facial expressions and body language. And I think when you’re expressing yourself with your whole body it’s just naturally going to be felt more deeply.

Rachael: Yes, it’s so powerful! Do you have any other books to recommend that involve deaf characters?

Sarah: Sons of Blackbird Mountain by Joanne Bischof features a deaf hero—plus, it’s set in Appalachia! And Jan Karon’s Light from Heaven includes a deaf woodworker named Clarence. I’m sure there are many more, but those two come to mind . . . 

Readers, do you have any favorite books that involve deaf characters?

Ask BHP: What Goes into Your Instagram Account?

Recently we had a reader write in, “I love your Instagram! What goes into all the fun book pictures and videos, and how do you decide what books to feature?”

Hello, it’s Rachael, here! I’m the copywriter and “Instagram guru” at Bethany House. My main responsibility is to write back covers, ads, bookmarks, and almost anything else that isn’t within the pages of a book. Though, when I started working at BHP, I launched our Instagram account and was given the title “Instagram Queen.” Capturing fun photos, shooting videos, and interacting with readers has become one of my favorite things about coming into work every day.

When I saw today’s Ask BHP question, I was elated! I love talking about our Instagram account almost as much as I love the fun I have with it.

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One of my favorite monthly features that we do on our Instagram account is the cover design videos. Our Senior Fiction Publicist, Amy, and I sneak into our Art Director’s office and steal his files on the books she wants to discuss, and we record short videos where she talks about photoshoots, shows the sketches our designers make before the cover is designed, and tells her theory about ancient helicopter technology that left a character at the top of a snowy mountain (see the video for Hope’s Highest Mountain). I don’t get to sit in on any of the meetings where cover decisions are made, so I’m constantly learning new things when we record these videos. You can find our cover design videos under the IGTV tab or in the “Cover Design” highlight on our page.

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Deciding on which books I’ll be featuring for the month is simple. I keep a list of the books we are releasing every month and make sure that each one is featured on our Instagram. I’m usually found wandering around the office asking coworkers for small knick-knacks they have in their office so I can use them for Instagram photos, or “hiring” hand models to hold books for me while I snap my photos. I love the dollar section at Target because that’s where I find my best props, and Amazon sells fantastic flat lay backdrops!

I also enjoy featuring our readers’ photos on our page, so if you “bookstagram,” tag us on Instagram and use the hashtag #BHPFiction and your photo could be chosen as a Feature Friday!

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I’d be lying if I said that we take our Instagram completely seriously because when it comes to taking photos, I’m usually found in the middle of a new shenanigan. I’ve been caught standing on chairs to get the perfect angle, hauling my entire bookcase into our sitting area for a “great idea,” and making use of the glass from a broken lamp. And since the best lighting in the office is right by our kitchenette, I’ve been caught every time. So when someone walks by and asks, “What could you possibly be doing this time?” I point them to the letter board hanging above my computer that says, “It’s an Instagram thing; you wouldn’t understand” and give them my trademark cheesy grin!

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If you haven’t already, follow our Instagram page at @bethanyhousefiction for sneak peeks at our cover design process, behind-the-scenes glimpses of our photoshoots, ebook deals, and weekly book recommendations! Don’t be afraid to send us a message if you have any questions, or simply want to say hi. I love hearing from our readers!

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I love trying new things, so what would you love to see on our Instagram in the future?

*To ask a question of your own, fill out the form here: https://forms.gle/MyzL6QPGh3JQKzyE8 

Ask BHP: What Are the Best Things About Working for a Book Publisher?

Greetings, readers! Rachael Wing—copywriter and fiction Instagram coordinator—here! This week, our publicist and blog host, Amy Green, is at our seasonal sales conference at HQ in Michigan where they are discussing our Fall 2020 releases and other important publishing topics. Meanwhile, I was given control over the blog for this week and discovered an intriguing question in the Ask BHP inquiries: “What are the best things about working for a book publisher?”

Instead of naming off all of my favorite parts about working at Bethany House (which are innumerable), I sought out answers from multiple BHP employees to hear what they love most about their jobs. Enjoy!

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One of the best things about working for a book publisher is getting to help create products that I enjoy outside of work. I’m fueling my own favorite pastime, and working with people who love it as much as I do,”—Kristen, Art/Design Coordinator

“Being surrounded by book people! I love that I can ask anyone, ‘What are you reading?’ and come away with a great conversation and probably some new book recommendations to add to my TBR pile.”—Jessica, Editor

“Reading has played a huge role in my life since childhood, and I admit that it’s a dream come true to work with books and authors each day. One of my favorite things is getting to know who each author is as a person—it makes me smile to be able to encourage them in their coffee/chocolate addiction and hear what’s new with them. I also enjoy that my role includes a broad variety of tasks, such as researching confetti prices or personalized matchbox vendors.”—Brooke, Fiction Marketing Assistant

“I like getting to go back and forth with the author about plot and setting and characters. How many times have you wanted to do that with books you’ve read?!”—Jen, Line Editor

“Knowing how many people it actually takes to create a book and get it into the hands of the readers. Authors often include acknowledgements pages that do at least hint at that, but so many readers, myself included, skip over those that it wasn’t until I started working at a publishing house that I had a true appreciation for all the teamwork necessary to make a book a success.”—Kate, Copyeditor

“Getting to read manuscripts extra early!”—Raela, Senior Acquisitions Editor

“I love that I am surrounded by people who love words as much as I do! In fact, we have a board of sorts on my office window where we record ‘vocab points’ and ‘fauxcab points’ (made-up words)—every time someone uses a fun word, we add a post-it note to the board. Some of my favorites are: recalcitrant, obfuscation, and ‘schimid’ (shy/timid).”—Rachael, Copywriter and Fiction Instagram Coordinator

“My favorite thing is having access to hundreds of books at all times! Also, I love that I get to help launch authors’ stories out into the world for people to read.”—Serena, Fiction Marketing Assistant

“For me, learning what goes into creating and publishing a book has been really fun to learn. Having the opportunity to see a book start as a manuscript and go through so many different processes and people to become a physical book that I can hold and read is amazing. Every time I get to learn about another piece of the publishing puzzle is a good day.”—Mycah, Nonfiction Marketing Assistant

“I like that everything we produce is ultimately intended for the edification of people, especially our fellow brothers and sisters wherever they are. To lift up people with words infused with Jesus’ message to His creation. Our books are designed to have a positive impact on the world—to educate, inspire, and entertain—to build up and not tear down. We are the privileged ones that get to carry the message of hope which emanates from the actual creator of the universe. And, we get to do that with the gifts He’s given us.”—Paul, Creative Director

If you worked for a book publisher, what do you think your favorite part would be? 

*To ask a question of your own, fill out the form here: https://forms.gle/MyzL6QPGh3JQKzyE8 

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.

Mountain Heroes: Guest Post with Misty Beller!

Today on the blog, historical romance author Misty Beller is here to talk about all things books and research and swoony heroes to celebrate the release of her latest novel, Hope’s Highest Mountain. Enjoy getting to know more about her and her writing style!

Amy: Thanks for joining us, Misty! What do you think makes a mountain-man hero who is loved by both readers and the heroine?

Misty: Ooo, this is a great question! When I’m writing a mountain man hero, I always wonder what it was that drove him into the wilderness to live by himself. Did a deep wound force him to want a life totally different than anything he was accustomed to? Or maybe he just loves the mountain country and craves adventure. The majestic grandeur of the Rockies has seeped into his soul and feeds his spirit like nothing else can. I think the best-loved mountain man is probably a combination of all of these! Micah Bradley from Hope’s Highest Mountain definitely fits that bill.

I imagine the ideal mountain man to be the strong, silent type—he would definitely have to be an introvert to be content living with minimal human interaction! And no matter how wounded (emotionally or otherwise), no matter how bitter from the scars of his past, his protective instincts have to be strong. He has to be willing to fight through any obstacle to protect those around him—especially the heroine!

Amy: Love it! Micah is a great example of that trait. Is there a fun historical fact you came across while researching Hope’s Highest Mountain that you’d like to share?

Misty: Hmm…I’m a history nerd, so every time I get to research, I find fun facts! Surprisingly, not everything I consider fun is a fun fact for “normal” people. For Hope’s Highest Mountain, I got to research so many things about smallpox, including what the disease looks like at each stage, the differences between smallpox and chicken pox, and the history of the vaccination (which included lots of milk maids and a few young children). As I was trying to choose which of these to share here, I decided it might be better to switch gears.

Let me tell you about puppies! Namely, the history of the cute little dog named Shadow who plays a starring role in the story. Shadow is a sweet little male Havanese, solid black and the runt of the litter. We also have two Havanese (in real life), so I’m pretty family with the current version of the breed.

I knew for the story to be accurate though, I would need to do some quick research on what the breed would have looked like back in the 1860s. They actually would have been called Bichons back then (not Bichon Frise, which is another breed that spun off from the original Bichons). For several centuries, they were bred on the island of Cuba, but vacationing Europeans discovered the dog there and helped spread the breed abroad. One of those sweet little puppies even made it all the way to the mountain wilderness of the Montana Territory! (wink)

Amy: I’m sure both the smallpox and the dog research were helpful as you wrote, but this is a good excuse for puppy pictures! Now, what do you most admire about early pioneers like the ones in your books?

Misty: The men and women who thrived on the frontier were amazing! They weren’t just living without modern conveniences and technology. They were living far from “civilization,” often far from family and church. Yet they built these strong lives, homes, marriages, families, and relationships with God. The challenges they faced made them stronger, developing them into people I respect wholeheartedly.

Amy: That’s such a great summary. And for those of you who’d like to hear Misty share more about her book, you can watch this short video!

So, readers, let’s talk heroes: what for you are the traits that make a fictional hero endearing or worth cheering for?

Love Comes Softly Through the Years

Hello, readers! I’m Brooke, the fiction marketing assistant at Bethany House, and I am posting on the blog this week while my colleague Amy Green is on vacation. 

Let’s talk for a moment about the year 1979. The price of a gallon of gas was still under a dollar and big hair styles were trending, but at Bethany House, one of our favorite 1979 things is Love Comes Softly. That’s right, the first edition of the well-loved prairie romance by Janette Oke was published by Bethany House 40 years ago! In celebration, we released a new paperback edition in August of this year, as well as a new hardcover (a special collector’s edition) that released a few weeks ago in early September. With these new editions, I’ve been thinking with nostalgia of the various cover designs of Love Comes Softly that I saw growing up.

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Travel through time with me and take a gander at the Love Comes Softly cover designs through the years. I asked Paul Higdon, our art director, about the changes to the most recent cover – see what he has to say below.

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I asked Paul Higdon, art director for Bethany House, about the new cover design and why he and the designers chose this new direction.

“When you think of the prairie, the quintessential feel is the sun beating down on the prairie so that’s why we tended to go with yellow for the warm feel, and why we still went with warm colors,” Paul said. “Into the early 2010s, we had what we call the ‘big head’ trend, where the character’s head takes up most of the cover. This has trended away, and the new trend is a full-figure depiction of the main character. It looks more realistic, and that way you can still capture the setting to pull the reader in. It’s more modern.”

I hope you all enjoy the new cover design (and the story inside the covers) as much as I do!

#DescribeABookPlotBadly

51152198_2055104334570014_2023964099418783744_nHello, readers! I’m Rachael Wing, the copywriter and “Instagram guru” at Bethany House (right). Amy Green is currently travelling the world and living her lifelong dream of searching for elves and Hobbits, so I’m taking over the blog this week!

If you grab a Bethany House book and flip to the back, you will find the recommended titles—or as we call them, the back-of-book ads (BOBs for short). As the company’s copywriter, one of my main responsibilities is to write those short descriptions. I take what has been written by the authors and editorial department for the books’ short summaries (which appears on Amazon and other retail sites), and have to summarize that in 360 characters or less . . . including spaces. Counting the fiction titles only, I write approximately 20 of these every four months—but counting our nonfiction divisions, I spend over a week writing  approximately 60 of these—so as you can imagine, there is always writer’s block involved, and they don’t always turn out poetically.

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Inspired by the old Twitter trend #DescribeAFilmPlotBadly and my personal work struggles, I decided to intentionally write terrible short synopses about some of my favorite classic stories to give you an idea of how my first drafts usually turn out—and hopefully a good laugh!

 

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Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: Broody uptown boy falls for feisty downtown girl, and his knack for throwing money at problems softens his terrible manners.

 

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Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare: Family drama! Slacking servants! Two teenagers are great at falling in love but terrible at coordinating death plans.

 

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Les Misérables by Victor Hugo: Police officer with the greatest thirst for vengeance and the worst tracking abilities hunts the same criminal for years. Also includes a very detailed description of the French sewer system.

 

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Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: A lonely monster with thrifted body and a murder complex is desperate for the perfect girl.

 

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Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: Boy-next-door loves his neighbors so much that he ends up settling for the worst sister.

 

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Great Expectations by Charles Dickens: Old lady cannot properly handle her breakup, so she keeps her grudges. And her moldy wedding cake.

 

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Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss: Children are taught about peer pressure through a strange creature who learns why it’s important to accept odd food from annoying strangers.

 

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The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien: A group of diverse dudes decide to cash in on a jewelry return in exchange for the fate of the world.

 

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Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë: The classic case of falling in love with your boss, who “forgets” to tell you about his crazy wife in the attic.

 

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Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery: The uplifting story of a girl who poisons her best friend, can’t dye hair, and has questionable fashion sense.

How would you describe some of your favorite classic tales?

Five Ways to Make Time for Reading

(This week’s post is from our fantastic summer intern, Jessica Pollard. Enjoy her tips!)

Let’s face it. Life is always going to be busy. Even though everyone says summer is the time to relax, you will always have lawn to mow, gardens to weed, and windows to clean. Not to mention no one can remember the last time the pantry was cleaned.

To help you escape the woes of summer cleaning and busy schedules, here are five ways you can make time in your life so you can soak in the summer rays with your favorite book.

Always Carry a Book

Everywhere is a good place to read: the doctor’s office, a sporting event, or even a road trip. (Unless you are driving. You’ll have to settle for an audiobook instead.) We waste so much time between events scrolling on our phones or gazing awkwardly into space. With a handy book in your purse or car, you can save your battery and look sophisticated at the same time. If you think books are too clunky to carry around (or don’t want to save your battery or look sophisticated), you can always have a few ebooks on your mobile device so that instead of mindlessly playing that game you’ve played a million times, you can go on new adventures with your newest character-friends.

Audiobooks

Some summer cleaning is inevitable. Trust me, trying to find an onion for wild rice soup is easier if you don’t have to venture through the menacing forest that grew around them. (Yes, I speak from experience.) However, you can make the work more enjoyable if you spend it with your favorite characters listening to audiobooks. Crossing stuff off your to-do list and reading books at the same time! You will be crowned the best multitasker in the world. Maybe you can even imaging you are the character as they make dinner or clean the house along with you.

Read What You Love

Yes, this may seem obvious at first glance. Of course, you should read what you love…but think of all the things you do read when you are “too busy” to read a book. Random news articles, your social media feed, bills. It only takes one masterfully woven page-turner to keep your attention hooked for hours. You will wonder how you ever claimed you didn’t have time for books. You may also wonder what sleep is.

(WARNING: Sleep is necessary for human function. Follow your doctor’s advice. But then again, if you really need to know who killed that guy…I guess you can read one more chapter…Someone else was killed? Okay, one more…What just happened??? Only two more chapters this time…Whoops, that’s the end of that book. But there was a cliffhanger…I guess you can start the next one.)

Set Goals

As with most things in life, you will get more done if you set goals (and stick to them). You will be amazed how many pages you can read while you’re brushing your teeth, making dinner, or before you go to bed if you know that reading 54 more pages will allow you to check the little box on your list. Making color-coded charts and spreadsheets to chart your progress can be as motivating as a to-do list.

(WARNING: Making color-coded charts and spreadsheets is addictive. You don’t want them to cut into your valuable reading time. It’s best to listen to an audiobook while making them.)

Be Challenged by Peers

If following through on your goals is not your forte, there’s nothing like a little peer pressure to keep you reading. Join a book club or start one with some friends. You don’t want to be the one who shows up to the meeting and responds “Well…you see…” when asked if you thought the main character was justified when she decided to go on a date with Bill instead on Rob in chapter nine. Trust me, you want to avoid the judgmental stares of book-lovers. Their gazes won’t stop after the meeting is over. They will follow you. Everywhere. For the rest of your life.

I think cleaning the pantry can wait for next month.

I hope these tips will inspire you to read more this summer. How do you make time for reading in your life?

How I Became a Fantasy Writer

Almost every writer I’ve met said they wanted to be a writer since they were young. At age six, I wanted to be a unicorn. A beautiful, magical unicorn. That should tell you where my life was heading from an early start.

My earliest book memories were my mother reading to us the children’s version of Pilgrim’s Progress and The Chronicles of Narnia. In fact, I couldn’t wait until the next night to find out what happened to the Pevensie siblings, so I found my mother’s copy and hid in a corner and finished it that afternoon.

As the years went by, I added more fantasy to my collection, starting with The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. My father was a fantasy nerd before it was cool and introduced me to even more stories: Dune, Conan, A Princess of Mars, and many others. When I wasn’t reading, I was imagining. So it’s no surprise that eventually I started writing my own stories.

In 2004, shortly after the birth of my daughter, I needed a creative outlet. My husband always said I should be a writer. I usually turned him down. I was a reader, not a writer. But then I had this idea and I couldn’t escape it. I started writing about this woman who could see inside people’s souls with a touch of her hand. Using the fantasy genre, I explored what it would be like if we could see people the way God sees people: both the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Years later, that story became my first published book: Daughter of Light. Since then, I’ve continued to write in the speculative genre. I always thought the Frankenstein story was a great story about how we should be careful of what we invent, and how the monster wanted to be loved. So I wrote a similar story about a young woman who—because of science—is turning into a monster from the inside out using a unique genre called steampunk (steampunk is a story set in a Victorian or Wild West era with a high level of technology ran on steam). A year later, Tainted came out, which won the Realm Award for best steampunk and Awakened, the following book, won the Carol Award for best Christian speculative.

It took years for me to embrace the fact that I love fantasy, and that there is nothing wrong with that genre. In fact, the next generation is desperately looking for something beyond our world. Just look at the books and movies young people read and watch. And what better way to introduce them to God (who is the most fantastical!), than with stories set in amazing worlds, filled with flawed and searching people, who find light and hope.

Along with writing fantasy, I attend an amazing conference every year for writers of faith who write specifically in the fantasy and science fiction genres, Realm Makers. It’s probably the only writing conference where you will find people walking around in geeky shirts, debating the eating habits of dragons, and dressing up as their favorite characters for the awards banquet. I have a steampunk outfit I wear especially for the occasion. It’s one of the highlights of my year!

Looking back, I never did become a unicorn. Instead, I became a fantasy writer. Which is almost the same thing. Then again, those silver hairs I see starting to peek out at the top of my head could be an indication that my dream just might be coming true.

 

Thanks so much for sharing your story with us, Morgan! Readers, you can check out the first chapter of Mark of the Raven, or visit Morgan’s website for more about her and her books. What is a favorite character from a fantasy novel you’ve read?