Behind the Scenes: Cover Costumes

Today, we get a special glimpse into a part of cover design that you might not have known existed…the costumes!

Most of the time at Bethany House, we rent costumes for use on our covers, but it just so happens that we also know a talented seamstress who takes on an occasional project. She is Beth Schoenherr, mother of Julie Klassen’s editor, Raela Schoenherr, and she created both costumes on the cover of the upcoming novel The Ladies of Ivy Cottage.

Aren’t they beautiful? (They’re even more detailed up close.)

She also agreed to answer a few questions on the blog today about the work involved in the process of making an author’s vision come to life.

What were the general steps you had to go through to sew one of those lovely Regency dresses for the cover, just to give us an idea of the process?

I started the sewing process for the Regency outfits by taking the model’s measurements and making a muslin version of the more fitted parts of the dress to ensure it would be a perfect fit before cutting into the actual dress fabrics. Then cut, sew, and—my favorite part—embellish!

How did you choose the colors and patterns for the dresses?

Julie, her editor, and the cover designer discussed and chose the color options for Rachel’s outfit based on what colors were appropriate for a woman in half mourning to wear at that time in history, as well as what a woman of her station would have worn at the time. Mercy’s outfit color and pattern were also chosen by Julie and her editor and cover designer as a good contrast next to the lavender outfit, as well as something that would be typical for Mercy to wear. For embellishment on Mercy’s outfit, I used antique trim for the collar, sleeves, and back.

I brought samples of fabric choices within the chosen color palettes to show the cover designer and editor to decide what would look best in the final cover design. They chose the lavender, pin-tucked taffeta because its texture would add some dimension to the coat that would show up well in photos. I found several sewing pattern options we could work from, and based on some costume inspiration photos from Julie, we decided on the pattern for the long coat.

You can find the pattern used here if you ever want to make your own Regency gown!

Since the approved cover direction meant the women would be seen from the back, we wanted to be sure the backs of both outfits (hats included) would also have some attractive elements.

Is there a particular era of fashion that you find the most fun?

Oh dear! I truly can’t pick a favorite era of fashion. I love seeing all the different shapes and styles throughout history. There’s always some beautiful or interesting or crazy element in every era of fashion.

For more from Beth, check out Tamera Alexander’s interview with her about the beautiful Southern belle dress she created for A Beauty So Rare.

I hope you had fun learning about one of many behind-the-scenes elements of your favorite covers! And now, a question for you, readers: if you were dressing up for a costume party, which literary character would you choose to portray?

Inside Bethany House: Fun with Grammar!

To prove how nerdy we are here at Bethany House, I could tell you about the time a cake arrived to a work celebration bearing the word “Congatulations,” and how one of the editors had inserted the appropriate letter complete with proofing mark, using frosting stolen from one of the decorative rosebuds.

I could mention the number of charity pamphlets, flyers, and yes, even an out-of-order bathroom sign that have been marked up with red pen within the Bethany House walls.

I could even link to the article that was circulating around editorial last week to add fuel to a heated debate on the Oxford comma.

But I figured I’d ask a few co-workers some grammar-nerdy questions and share their answers with you instead. Enjoy!

Do you have a favorite punctuation mark, and if so, what is it?

Elisa, editorial: My favorite punctuation mark is the em dash—it’s so versatile! My runner-up might be the period. It’s not fussy and packs plenty of meaning. It’s also very hard for people to misuse, which makes my job easier.

(Note: the em dash was recently discussed at the Bethany House lunch table, and many people spoke in glowing terms about how much they loved it and why. “It’s like a miniature cliffhanger,” “Sometimes I catch myself using three in one sentence,” and “Are we really discussing this?” were all actual quotes from the conversation.)

Noelle, marketing: For sure, the semi-colon. Correct usage for it is so little understood (even fully by me), but I somehow feel cooler attempting to use it. Only real grammar nerds try to use it over a plain old regular period. I am also a huge Dickens fan, and boy does he work those semi-colons.

Jessica, editorial: I really love parentheses. I use them a lot in casual, personal correspondence (reading my emails is basically like reading The Princess Bride). However, parentheses are not really allowed in formal fiction, so I have to fall back on my second favorite punctuation mark, the em-dash, which lets you sneak in parenthetical phrases without using parentheses. Score!

Is there a mistake you find yourself making over and over again?

Sharon, editorial: Hors d’oeuvres. Sometimes I get it right, sometimes wrong—but I always have to double check to be absolutely sure, because sometimes I transpose the e and the u. (And yes, I just looked it up before writing it here!)

Amy, marketing: I can never remember how to spell medieval. Also, I’m pretty sure I have yet to correctly format an ellipse, including on this blog.

Is there a grammar or usage mistake that is particularly painful for you?

Anna, marketing: YES! The Oxford comma should always be used. That’s all I have to say about that.

Jessica, editorial: This isn’t really a question of grammar, but one of my greatest editorial pet peeves is people referring to characters as “the man” or “the woman” instead of just using a pronoun. Especially when we know the character’s name! For example: “She opened the door to find Jake standing on her doorstep. Today the man wore jeans and a plaid shirt…” It’s SO AWKWARD. Just say “he”! Please! For me!

Elisa, editorial: I cringe when I see “apart” when the writer means “a part,” especially in situations where the writer is thanking people for the opportunity to be a part of something, because it comes across as being grateful for the opportunity to be standoffish.

Are there any grammar rules you don’t think should be rules?

Noelle, marketing: Let’s talk about smart quotes. They are like the Kim Kardashian of grammar—newsworthy for who knows why but always mentioned in copy editing. What’s wrong with my non-smart quote quotation marks and apostrophes? They get the job done.

(Note: If you want to know what smart quotes and straight quotes look like and why copy editors care, take a look at this explanation.)

Not something posted at Bethany House, thank goodness, but it still made me laugh.

 

Bonus round! Many of our editors save amusing typos from manuscripts and proposals. Here are a few collected by Charlene, a former acquiring editor for Bethany House:

She’d left the backpack containing her personal values in a locker at the Y.

When his wife died, he was housebroken.

Thank you for taking time to read my letter and your deep consideration on my behind.

There’d been a rumor she was loose and a maybe a trumpet.

Logan and his friends would drive to Pizza Ranch to gouge themselves on the buffet.

Our family is invisible if we stand together and believe the same things.

He ran across the street cat corner, still dogged by the man in black.

Even as a publicist, I see some funny ones. Here are two of my favorites:

  • A Facebook message with this query: “I had a dream about the raptor and I think it would make a great book.” (When I read this—it was early on a Monday—I was actually picturing a Christian dinosaur book for a second.)
  • A woman who spent three paragraphs criticizing the dress on the cover of one of our books as “horrendously inauthentic,” then ended with this: “Would you like to employ me to poof your cover designs for credibility prior to publication? I would do it for very low rates, just to keep from cringing in horror at most of your inept art.” I almost replied, “Thanks for the offer, but you might want to poof your email before sending.”

Needless to say, if we took a poll of Bethany House staff based on last week’s checklist, everyone would score pretty high, even those of us who don’t edit books on a daily basis.

Okay, grammar nerds out there, time for you to chime in! What grammar or usage error makes you cringe? Do you have a favorite punctuation mark?

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:

ballroom

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:

thumbnail_ice-skating-central-park

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.)

Happy Thanksgiving from Bethany House

This Thanksgiving Day, the start of an often-crazy holiday season, I hope you’re able to take a little time for rest. For peace. For prayer and unhurried conversation and good food and laughter.

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If it’s been a long November, dwell on these words from Jesus. They’re as true today as they’ve always been: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”—Matthew 11:28-29

Happy Thanksgiving! As always, I’m grateful for compelling stories, authors seeking to write truth and grace, and readers like you who never fail to encourage me. Blessings on your celebration today!

Inside a Book Tour

It’s getting near the end of Beverly Lewis’s fall book tour to promote her new release, The Wish. From last Wednesday until this coming Saturday, fans in the South had a chance to meet her, ask her questions about the Amish, and get their favorite books signed. (You can find the schedule here. If you missed a signing near your home, check the store: Beverly signed some books to leave there that you might be able to snag!)

I was able to tag along on the tour to manage the line, hand out newsletter sign-ups, take pictures with every variety of camera imaginable, and chat books with readers.
It was quite a whirlwind week with three stops every day! Here are some pictures of the tour. (You can find more on Beverly’s Facebook page.)

Sometimes Beverly will speak at events, sharing the inspiration for her book and her writing journey.

We ran into lots of Tennessee fans on a big football game day!

We ran into lots of Tennessee fans on a big football game day!

Little Leo, asleep with Mom, was the youngest book signing attendee.

Little Leo, asleep with Mom, was the youngest book signing attendee.

On Sunday, we went hiking in the Smoky Mountains.

On Sunday, we went hiking in the Smoky Mountains.

 

A few more behind-the-scenes fun facts:

  • In our rental van in between stops, Beverly and I regaled our longsuffering tour manager, Steve, with a singalong to classic musicals like Oklahoma! and The Sound of Music.
  • After years of doing these tours, we’ve seen nearly everything go wrong that could: missed flights, lost luggage, freak storms, sickness, mixed-up schedules, car troubles…you name it, it’s happened. There was even one book signing tour where Beverly didn’t do any actual signing because of an injury to her right arm! Somehow we always make it through to the end (and we appreciate all the readers who pray for the tour).
  • This tour, our most unusual stop was probably The Original Moon Pie General Store and Book Warehouse. It gives away free mini Moon Pies to guests!
They also had large barrels of candy. I was excited!

They also had large barrels of candy.

As someone who usually stands near the front of the line, I always overhear great stories about how Beverly’s books have changed readers’ lives. It just goes to show there’s a lot of power in fiction!

Do you have any questions about what goes on during a book signing tour?

Advice for Perfecting Your Contest Entry

One fun thing about working at a publishing company are the connections I have with what goes on “behind the scenes,” including writing contests. Since I know many writers follow this blog, I decided to interview three judges who have experience evaluating first chapters, synopses, and other entries. Their comments are kept anonymous (to keep their mystique of course…and so if you happened to enter a contest where they were judges, you wouldn’t worry that all of their comments here were talking about your entry). I hope you learn a lot from them!

Amy: What’s a common mistake (or a few) you saw in the manuscripts you judged?

Judge One: The most common problem I saw was when writers would tell me what was going on with their character instead of showing me. One example of this would be an author telling me how a character felt about a significant event in his/her life instead of showing me how he/she reacted to said event (e.g. a wife narrates her angst over an argument with her husband instead of showing me the argument itself). Another common example would be an author trying to fit too much backstory in the first couple pages of a novel. I fall into this trap too, so I get it—it’s hard to find the balance between confusing your readers and keeping them in suspense. But too often, authors would tell me everything that had happened to a character to bring him to this point in the story (lost his job, became an alcoholic, wife divorced him) instead of leaving me with a little mystery and letting me find out those things one by one while I read.

Judge Two: Some entries did a lot of telling instead of showing—outright stating characters’ emotions or motivations instead of showing what they looked like. But other entries made the more subtle mistake of showing and telling. They did a great job of using dialogue, body language, and vivid verbs so I understood what was happening…and then tacked on a totally unnecessary explanation of it in case I missed all of that. As a reader, I feel cheated, like the author didn’t trust me. It’s also a waste of words, because it says the same thing twice. Other mistakes that are a bit more obvious include a slow start to the story with lots of backstory or info-dumps, unrealistic dialogue, and too-perfect characters, all of which brand a manuscript as a beginner.

Judge Three: Because I was only able to see the very first part of the book, a strong beginning was crucial, as it was all I had to focus on. Several of the submissions could have had much snappier starts. I would also advise entrants to be very careful about their synopsis and not skipping necessary details or assuming knowledge. Several times I came away confused on things like timeline and certain plot points

Amy: When an entry caught your attention in a good way, what were some characteristics of that entry that made it stand out?

Judge One: Last month I watched the women’s gymnastics at the Olympics, and one thing the announcers keep saying over and over is that these young women have to do the hardest things in the world and make them look easy. The entries that caught my attention did the same thing—they worked in historic details without losing the story’s momentum, dropped in the occasional foreign word to provide a sense of place, or added an accent to a character’s speech without making it cheesy. The plot, dialogue, and character development were all there too, but these authors had gone the extra mile and made the world of their imagination into a world I could picture visiting. They had paid attention to the details without letting the details overwhelm the point of the story.

Judge Two: One huge thing is that in the best entries, a scene accomplished more than one thing. For example, it didn’t just give information…it also advanced the plot, showcased the personalities of the main characters, and foreshadowed something still to come. Or it didn’t just raise the stakes of the suspense, it also hinted at the hero’s backstory, introduced a minor character, and reinforced the spiritual theme. These are just a few examples of what a scene can accomplish. If you read a chapter in your manuscript and realize that if it disappeared, you wouldn’t be missing much, or it could be easily replaced with any generic obstacle, it’s not doing enough work.

Judge Three: It’s hard to quantify, but simply the fact that I wanted to keep reading and was bummed I wasn’t given the whole manuscript. The other aspect is that I didn’t notice the writing, I just became so engrossed in the story and really bought into the character’s voice and perspective. Heavy use of adjectives or stilted dialogue can make you notice the words over the story and pull you completely out of it.

Amy: If you could give one piece of advice to someone editing a contest submission, what would it be?

Judge One: Get someone to edit your submission for you first. (Seriously. I know this is mentioned in every piece of writing advice ever, but it was clear that the better entries I read had already benefited from detailed and constructive editing—and that the not-so-great ones still needed more help than I could give in a simple scoring sheet.) Ideally, you’ll have three or four editors, or better yet, a whole critique group of them. And these can’t be friends or family members who will love your writing no matter what. You want your first readers to be people a little bit distanced from your work so that they’ll be honest with you, and you also want them to have enough writing experience to be able to kindly point out potential trouble areas. After you get this first hurdle out of the way, go ahead and bring in those friends and family members for another go-around. They’ll be able to give you a reader’s point-of-view, warning you of any confusing sections and telling you where the action could be sped up a bit. Plus, they’ll give your confidence a great boost!

Judge Two: Read your entry out loud. Not only will you catch small mistakes like typos or missing words, but you’ll also notice when you’re using the same sentence pattern over and over to the point of monotony. And nothing points out a bit of cliché or boring dialogue like hearing your characters say it out loud in your own voice.

Judge Three: Make sure you get someone to read and edit the entry who knows nothing about the story. This will help you eliminate any missed details or loopholes that someone familiar with it will naturally fill in. Good writing won’t overcome a confusing story.

Readers, what would make you lose patience with a book if you encountered it in the first few chapters? Writers, tell us about a mistake you made early on in your writing career that now makes you cringe.

BHP Book Banter 2016

Even publishers like to party every now and then!

We want to hear what you have to say, on everything from cover design to what makes a book one you’d recommend to others to how many author newsletters you’ve signed up for.

But instead of just pushing a survey at you, we decided to throw a party! Like our author Book Banters, this will be held on a Facebook event page. There will be a set time where I’ll be posting survey questions—the time on the event—but anyone can stop by for 24 hours after the event and answer the questions and take the surveys to be entered in drawings for prizes. That way, you can come and go as you’re able and not feel like you’re missing out.

And if you really like this tag, I found it here.

 

Last year’s event was fun and jam-packed with information that I compiled. Some was helpful for Bethany House, some I passed on to our authors if I thought it might be useful to them.

Once again, there will be a set time for the party, but you can feel free to drop by afterward to see the posts and answer questions. Feel free to invite all of your reading friends!

BHP Book Banter
Thursday, July 21, 11 AM – 1 PM

Hostess
Amy Green, Bethany House fiction publicist and lover of all things Christian fiction

Schedule of Events
Note that all the times below are in Central, so feel free to do a bit of quick calculating to figure out when to set your alarms and mark your calendars in your time zone.

11:00
Welcome and Costume Party—in a comment on the welcome post, you can share a picture of an outfit you’re “wearing” to the party that might be worn by one of your favorite Christian fiction characters. (You don’t actually need to wear it—just find an image to share with the rest of us…and be sure to tell us which character you’re representing!)

Starting at 11:10 and throughout
Surveys and Q&A—I’ll post surveys for you to answer, and you can ask me questions about Bethany House if you like. I’ll do my best to answer them! Feel free to answer as many of the surveys as you like—each one will enter you into a giveaway (mostly books, but also gift cards and a few surprises).

12:00
Inside Bethany House—behind-the-scenes pictures of what goes on at Bethany House, including our costume closet and cover roughs.

12:30
Shameless Self-Promotion Post—I’ll put up a post where you can fill the comments with links if you’re a book blogger and want others to join in the fun at your site. We love helping readers gather in communities and interact—that’s the fun of it!

1:00
Conclusion—the event is officially over. But remember, if you weren’t able to be there during the specified time, you can drop by the page at any point and respond to the surveys.

Giveaway winners will be announced at noon on Friday, July 22, so be sure to give your input before then for a chance to win books, gift cards, and other reader goodies.

RSVP

Get your “costume,” questions, and opinions ready, and I’ll see you on the 21st!

Sins of the Past Mystery and Mayhem Tour

Readers, I have some shocking news for you, something that’s never before happened to anyone at Bethany House. Take a look at the letter below that Dani Pettrey received in the mail, just before the launch of Sins of the Past.

RansomNote

Enclosed with the note was a list of profiles of these three authors’ characters. Apparently Anonymous has been stalking their books for quite some time. We can only assume the “clues” Anonymous promised to reveal will help rule out some of the characters below.

Potential Victims

EvieBlackwellFrom: Traces of Guilt by Dee Henderson
Occupation: Illinois state police detective
Most Likely to be Found: Solving puzzles, watching classic movies, trying new restaurants

JillianCarterFrom: When A Secret Kills by Lynette Eason
Occupation: Investigative reporter
Most Likely to Be Found: Hiding from a killer who wants her dead, spending time with her daughter Meg

KirraJacobsFrom: Sabotaged by Dani Pettrey
Occupation: Veterinarian, owner of a shelter for rescued sled dogs
Most Likely to be Found: Caring for animals, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing

DavidHackettFrom: No One To Trust by Lynette Eason
Occupation: Former Special Forces
Most Likely to Be Found: Doing something for his wife, Summer, or helping someone in need

CharlotteGrahamFrom: Unspoken by Dee Henderson
Occupation: Artist
Most Likely to be Found: Selling old collectible coins, drawing, attending sporting events

MaceyAdamsFrom: Blackout by Lynette Eason (novella in Sins of the Past)
Occupation: Paramedic
Most Likely to Be Found: At work or driving an ambulance

MarkBishopFrom: Undetected by Dee Henderson
Occupation: Navy commander
Most Likely to be Found: At work on a submarine, reading a good mystery

PiperMcKennaFrom: Shattered by Dani Pettrey
Occupation: Co-owner of Last Frontier Adventures
Most Likely to be Found: Reading a mystery novel, traveling, planning a party with friends

OliviaEdwardsFrom: Always Watching by Lynette Eason
Occupation: Bodyguard
Most Likely to Be Found: At work since she doesn’t know what it means to relax

GriffinMcCrayFrom: Cold Shot by Dani Pettrey
Occupation: Gettysburg park ranger
Most Likely to be Found: Hiking, watching a baseball game, or making homemade trail mix

GageMcKennaFrom: Stranded by Dani Pettrey
Occupation: Co-owner of Last Frontier Adventures
Most Likely to be Found: Cooking, kayaking, practicing the trumpet or the piano

What Can You Do?

Sins of the PastMy name is Amy Green, the fiction publicist at Bethany House, and I’m appointing myself the investigative lead on this mystery. I can’t do it alone, though. It’ll take a team to solve the mystery, rescue the character, and bring the kidnapper to justice. That’s why we want you, dear readers, to join us. We’ve already recruited the help of bookstore owners and book review bloggers to help us find clues to determine which character is being held hostage and how we can rescue him or her. The stops on the tour are listed below. Make sure you don’t miss a single step of the investigation!

The Mystery and Mayhem Tour

Clues will be revealed at each stop to help you figure out which character has been kidnapped. (If you can’t make it in person to the bookstore events, don’t worry—Dani and Lynette will post the clue from the events on their Facebook pages within 24 hours of the event.)

Friday, April 29, 4 PM
LifeWay Christian Bookstore
3726 E Franklin Blvd
Gastonia, NC 28054

(You can find the clue here.)

Saturday, April 30, 1 PM
Christian Supply
1600 John B White Sr Blvd
Spartanburg, SC 29301

(You can find the clue here.)

Wednesday, May 4
Just Commonly with Annie

Saturday, May  7
Just Romantic Suspense

Wednesday, May 11
Reading is My Superpower with Carrie

Saturday, May 14, 1 PM
His Way Christian Bookstore
Southdale Shopping Center
8 Mountain Rd
Glen Burnie MD 21060

(You can find the clue here.)

Sunday, May 15, 2 PM
Barnes & Noble
620 Marketplace Dr.
Bel Air, MD 21014

(You can find the clue here.)

Wednesday, May 18
Finding Wonderland with Rissi

Saturday, May 21
Will Bake for Books with Bekah

Wednesday, May 25
The Suspense Zone

Thursday, June 2, 7-9 PM Eastern
Sins of the Past Mystery and Mayhem Facebook Party

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Be sure to RSVP to the Facebook party on June 2—if enough concerned readers show up, we’re hoping Anonymous will make an appearance as well so we can solve the case. Don’t worry: with a team of loyal readers like you, we’re sure we’ll get the character back safe and sound!

The Importance of Leaving Book Reviews

Leaving a review on Goodreads, Amazon, or another retail site? First of all, thank you so much! This is one of the most useful things you can do to promote a book you love. Here are a few reasons why:

  • The more reviews a book has, the more often retails sites like Amazon and B&N will recommend the book to others and feature it in searches.
  • Potential buyers will use the number of five-star reviews as a quick snapshot of whether a book is worth their money.
  • Inclusion in an ebook promo newsletter like BookBub can skyrocket an author’s backlist title. And what do those sites look at when deciding which books to feature? You guessed it: reviews!
  • In a 2015 survey of Christian fiction readers, 16% said the main reason they heard about/purchased a book was because of online reviews. Based on the number surveyed, that’s over 250 readers. It adds up! (Note that 33% of the readers surveyed regularly left reviews for Christian fiction books…let’s raise that percentage!)

If you feel intimidated by the pressure to craft the perfect review, just know that even a simple five-star rating and a “This book was great! Can’t wait to read more from this author!” is helpful.

5stars

But if you want to go the extra mile, here are some tips for writing an awesome book review. Continue reading

Risen: A Roman Investigates the Resurrection

Lent begins early next month, and with it comes a season to reflect on the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

But have you ever wondered what the empty tomb looked like from the point of view of the occupying Romans?

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That’s the concept behind the upcoming film Risen. I had a chance to see an early preview of the film and really enjoyed the perspective it gave on both the life of Jesus and the witnesses to his resurrection who became the leaders of the early church.

The reason I got that sneak-peek look at the movie is because Bethany House is publishing the novelization, written by Angela Hunt!

The novel follows the story of Roman Tribune Clavius who is assigned by Pilate to keep followers of Yeshua from starting a revolution by claiming their lord has risen from the dead. It also includes the point of view of Rachel, a Jewish woman, who had to be cut from the film due to length, but whose story, I think, adds depth to Clavius’ search for truth.

Although the book is fiction, Angela put in hours of careful research, which she explains in the author’s note, to make sure that her story is an accurate portrayal of what might have gone on in the investigation of Jesus’ death…and his disappearance from the tomb three days later. The entire plot is an intriguing what-if: What if the original witnesses of the resurrection had some of the same questions and doubts people have today?

As Clavius searches for the truth, he wrestles with the following objections:

  • The disciples stole Jesus’ body and lied about it.
  • Jesus wasn’t really dead when they took him down from the cross, but actually revived later on.
  • The guards were hallucinating or lying in their second report about angels.
  • Jesus’ followers imagined Jesus was alive because they so badly wanted him to be.

Risen
And a number of others as well. If you or someone you know wants to think critically about the resurrection and get a more complete view of the life and times of Jesus that we kind of skim over sometimes when reading the Bible, Risen is a great choice. You can read an excerpt by clicking on the cover of the book above.

Be sure to check out the movie’s website to watch the trailer and get tickets!

Question for you, readers: what is your favorite tradition around Good Friday or Easter to remember the crucifixion and resurrection?