Guest Post: Elizabeth Camden!

Today on the blog, Elizabeth Camden is joining us to talk about the theme of her newest novel, From This Moment…and a subject that many romance readers and writers are interested in: true love.

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Do you agree with the quote above?

While it may not be the most romantic of sentiments, I think most happily married people will affirm it. As people go through life their needs deepen and change. A good marriage requires the strength and flexibility to adapt to these changes… and to keep falling in love anew as life unfolds over the years.

Romance novels typically celebrate the triumph of early-stage, idealistic love, but in From this Moment I wanted to try something a little different. I wanted to explore the qualities of an enduring relationship, with all the exuberant hope and heart-rending choices that sometimes come into play. Is the joyous infatuation of first love enough to sustain a lifelong commitment?

SummerofDreams_novella.inddFrom this Moment features two distinct love stories: Romulus White is a charming womanizer who is secretly terrified of marriage, and for good reason. Then there is Evelyn and Clyde, whose early courtship was shown in the free novella Summer of Dreams. The main novel picks up ten years later with these three lifelong friends at a turning point in their lives. Clyde and Evelyn’s marriage is unraveling, and Romulus is about to meet his match in Stella West.

The two romances couldn’t be more different. While Evelyn and Clyde got married very young on an impulsive rush of infatuation, Romulus believes such feelings are dangerous, and avoids any woman who might rock his carefully won equilibrium. He and Stella ignite in a combustible mix of shared intellect, high-flying flirtation, and overwhelming attraction…precisely the sort of dazzling chemistry that terrifies Romulus. Meanwhile, Evelyn and Clyde are confronted with changes neither saw heading their way. It will either draw them closer together, or split them apart for good.

From This MomentI loved the chance to explore the meaning of love, marriage, and enduring friendship in this novel. Sometimes we have to fight hard to keep falling in love with our spouse, and sometimes it seems to come effortlessly. I hope you will see plenty of both in From this Moment.

Thanks for joining us, Elizabeth! You can follow her on Facebook or visit her website for more. Now a question for you, readers: what is the best advice you’d give to a couple approaching marriage about relationships that last?

An Interview with Cold Shot’s Hero

Want to meet the good-looking guy on the cover of Dani Pettrey’s new release, Cold Shot? Well, he’s answering a few questions on the blog today. Enjoy getting to know a little bit about the story of Griffin McCray, Gettysburg park ranger, and Finley Scott, forensic anthropologist.

Cold Shot

Griffin, you’ve been harsh with Finley since she arrived at Gettysburg. Why all the hostility?

I’m not hostile. I’m…straight to the point. She’s digging up soldier’s graves—soldiers who should be honored and left in peace. She has no business being in my park.

Yes, but she’s a forensic anthropologist. It’s her job to help identify the unknown victims, to bring closure to the family. You certainly can understand that?

The soldiers died two hundred years ago, I’m pretty sure their families are way past closure. Besides, that’s not the source of my frustration, not really.

Oh? What is the real source of your frustration?

Between us, my park was nice and quiet before Dr. Finley Scott showed up, looking stunning and somehow adorable in those silly coveralls she wears for work. If you tell her that, you’re dead. The point is she’s disturbing the ground, waltzing all over the place with her bouncy little walk and talking to me when I’m on patrol. She should focus on her work and leave me be.

Rumor is she finds you attractive and intriguing.

Really? That can’t be right. I mean, I’ve been nothing but gruff with her. Lecturing her on not disturbing hallowed ground. Not encouraging any further attachment. Continue reading

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

Inside the Writing Process: Critique Partners

I’ve written a few posts that deal with the behind-the-scenes of what goes on at Bethany House, but I know many of you are also interested in a sneak peek at the actual writing process. For that, I have to turn to my authors, and this month we have something extra-special: two critique partners with novels releasing the same month! I asked Roseanna White and Dina Sleiman to share a bit of their revising process with us.

That's Roseanna on the left, Dina on the right. Thanks so much for joining us, ladies!

That’s Roseanna on the left, Dina on the right. Thanks so much for joining us, ladies!

Amy: What does being a critique partner involve? How do you and Dina manage the process?

Roseanna: Critiquing is the process of giving advice on your partner’s work—sometimes feedback on the overall concept, brainstorming, what works and doesn’t, lines that are confusing, and so on. Our critiquing has varied over the years based on what we need at a given time. Recently, we’ve sent each other complete manuscripts; we then read and provide comments in the document, replying via email. Dina and I don’t critique every book for each other, but we’ve done quite a few together over the years.

Amy: When did you and Roseanna become critique partners, and how did that happen?

Dina: I didn’t get involved in writers’ circles until 2009, and I quickly discovered that many writers had these wonderful people in their lives called critique partners. For a while I kind of sat back and checked out a number of women in my European historical writers group. Roseanna was one of the writers who I admired and thought might be a good fit for me. Then in early 2010 we were both working on projects with Muslim characters, and we decided to try critiquing for each other. As I suspected, it was an awesome arrangement! And since Roseanna was a little further ahead in her writing journey than me, I learned so much just by studying how she did things.

Amy: Why would you say having a critique partner or group is valuable?

Roseanna: Oh my—sometimes we just need that step-removed perspective! Often we know something’s off in our story but can’t quite identify what. Other times we think it’s right on, but we want to make sure…and there’s usually something that doesn’t strike readers quite the way we hoped. Plus when you add in another writer’s take on everything from craft to plot to fine points of history, they always catch things you’ve missed or that you just didn’t know.

Dina: Critique partners catch so many problems that a writer just doesn’t have the perspective to see. For example, often a writer knows some pertinent information, but they don’t remember to put it down on the page or they don’t describe it in a way that is clear to the reader. I now have a variety of critiquers that have different fortes. Some are good at big picture elements, some are good at scene development, and some focus on details. And of course now I have my wonderful Bethany House editors as well.

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And their September releases, The Lost Heiress and Chivalrous.

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Q&A with Cliff Graham: Leaving a Legacy

“We, as followers of Christ, have a chance to build a genuine and lasting legacy that can be carried on by other generations behind us.”

This thought from Cliff Graham really stood out to me—it’s a line from his series of devotionals that will be sent out via email starting on Father’s Day.You can sign up for them here. It’s also the theme of Cliff’s new novel, Shadow of the Mountain: Exodus, which released last month.

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For any of you readers who aren’t aware of Cliff, his novels, and the message he’s passionate about, I decided to welcome him to the blog today.

Amy: What do you hope readers take away from this novel?

Shadow of the Mountain.EXODUS.inddCliff: Shadow of the Mountain: Exodus is the gritty, intense portrayal of the journey from slavery in Egypt through the wars of conquest in Canaan through the eyes of Joshua and Caleb. It’s about the nature of masculine friendship over a lifetime and an indictment of the idea that once you reach a certain age, you can just retire and take it easy. After working many years in ministry and speaking at conferences, churches, and to men’s groups, I noticed the older men in the crowd tended to feel left out of what was happening, and as a result had begun checking out to spend time on the golf course. I thought it was time we had a look at a biblical character who defied the idea of “retirement.”

Amy: What does living like Caleb look like in the modern world?

Cliff: Whenever I hear men in the church complain that there are “no more great battles to fight” and use that as an excuse to disengage, I have to take deep breaths. Last I checked, there are still orphans and widows in the world. Last I checked, there are still Graham_Cliffpeople drowning in despair who need hope. I became involved over the past year with several organizations, including Operation Underground Railroad and Breaking Chains Ministries. These groups, and others like them, fight the evil of child sex trafficking by conducting undercover, government partnership-based rescue missions. It’s more than just raising awareness; it’s about taking action to live out the principles in James, chapter 1, about defending the weak and oppressed. It’s what men ought to be about.

I have been blessed to be a part of the rescue of over 150 children through these organizations through undercover work and sting operations. A drop in the ocean of the problem, but action nonetheless. The duty is to fight and not to give up because the problem is overwhelming. I donate a large percentage of everything I sell to help fund these missions and organizations. It’s a good battle, and not one we should retire from.

Amy: Tell us about your podcast. What do you want listeners to take away from it?

Cliff: On the Good Battle podcast, I sit down with people advancing the kingdom of God in brave and audacious ways. Every man, no matter his past or his occupation, is expected to threaten the Enemy with his life. There are no longer Philistines or Amalekites to battle, but there is still a spiritual Enemy who seeks to steal, kill and destroy. We are designed to make war on this Enemy in the power of a Holy God. The guests I host are waging “Good Battle” to advance the kingdom of God through compassion, love, and righteous ferocity.

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Do you have a biblical character who inspires or challenges you?

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!**

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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!

Guest Post: Nancy Mehl on Writing Suspense and Mystery

This week, Nancy Mehl is sharing a piece of her writing journey with us. It’s always fascinating to me how different every author’s publication stories are! Hope you enjoy an insider’s look.

Mehl_NancyWhen I first started writing, I was pulled toward mainstream mystery. That’s what I read, and it was all I wanted to write.

I’d sold a couple of novels to small publishers before my agent asked me if I wanted to submit a proposal for a cozy mystery to a publisher that was starting a book club. “Sure,” I said, “but first, what’s a cozy mystery?” A quick explanation revealed that they weren’t much different than what I was already writing. I tweaked my proposal—created a small town with some eccentric characters—and then added the other elements that make up a cozy. I found that my story flowed easily. Cozies were fun! I got the contract and ended up writing seven inspirational cozy mysteries, even winning the Carol award for one of them.

Then one of my editors asked me to turn a cozy mystery proposal into romantic suspense. Here I am, six books later, writing romantic suspense, not a genre I’d originally envisioned for myself.

By nature, writers are introspective human beings, so not long ago I began to wonder if I was really happy where I was. Had all the twists and turns in my career led me to a place where I could be happy? Surprisingly, the answer to my question was “Yes!” But why? What had I discovered in the suspense genre that brought me fulfillment?
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Guest Post: How to Pick Up Can’t-Put-Down Books That You Put Down

Today we have a guest post from Nichole Parks, who did an internship with the marketing department here at Bethany House. Enjoy her advice from one reader to another!

College hates me. Life doesn’t want me to read.

Right now, on my desk dwells a novel. I am averaging three chapters a week. Regardless of how I sped through books one and two or how curious I am as to why Celia won’t let Ty kiss her, my textbook keeps winning out.

Dear person reading this, a textbook should never win. I mean, okay, if you are playing Rock Paper Scissors, paper has a good chance of flattening rock. But I am not playing Rock Paper Scissors. I am playing life and, in order to life well, Taylor University assigns me textbooks.

But I haven’t given up reading. In fact, I’ve come up with a game plan that I hope to perfect by the time Dani Pettrey’s Sabotaged releases in February.

I call this game plan How To Pick Up Can’t-Put-Down Books That You Put Down. I know. I know. The title needs work.

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I think many of us are perpetually in “All is Lost” territory.

 

Read out loud

When I’m having trouble reacquainting myself with a novel, I read the first paragraph-page out loud. It channels my focus and helps me better retain what I’ve read. Maybe that’s why audio is one of the three ways we learn. Put audio with visual, and, presto, you’re in Holley, Texas eating goodies with Ty and Celia Porter in Meant to Be Mine.

Here’s the catch: Time.

Reading out loud takes longer than a cow cudding Double Bubble Gum. Also, it’s not the most comfortable thing to host story hour at your OB-GYN’s waiting room. Continue reading