Five Bookish Mysteries to Solve

Last week, I received the following Facebook message to the Bethany House Publishers page: “HI! I want all your pictures also the questions and mysteries you have.”

There are a few ways to interpret this cryptic message:

  • Someone used Google Translate and it went badly wrong.
  • A spam/robot account is sending me auto-generated messages.
  • This is a legitimate question that I should answer on the blog.

Being the reasonable person that I am, I’ve decided that Option 3 is clearly the correct one. The following are a number of mysteries, solved and unsolved, from my experience in Christian publishing (with pictures, though not all my pictures).

Mystery One: The Bethany House Logo

Is it a flame, possibly on the page of an open book? Is it an ink quill tip? Is it supposed to be both at the same time? And if it is both, does that mean that our authors are lighting the world on fire, or is it symbolic of the Holy Spirit?

Staff members are divided. You decide.

Mystery Two: Faceless Women

By which I mean the type of cover that shows only part of a woman’s face/head or none at all.

While there’s no hard evidence of why this trend exists, popular explanations include:

  • Some readers like to imagine the heroine’s face themselves, and the cover model could never be exactly what everyone is picturing.
  • There’s a certain mystery about a half-hidden face that intrigues people.
  • Something design-speak about proportions and lines and large faces sometimes distracting from the title and author name.
  • And, of course, Regina Jenning’s conclusive research into this issue from a few years ago, my personal favorite explanation for this one.

Mystery Three: Disproportionate Genetic Distribution of Redheads

Someone* at Bethany House actually counted the number of red-haired heroines in our books one year and found that it was 18% of main characters, vs. approximately 1.7% percent of the US population.

This is a startling genetic anomaly that clearly indicates that gingers are trying to take over inspirational fiction. (Or maybe it’s because in three-book series, authors sometimes like to have at least one redhead. That might be it too.)

Mystery Four: The Traveling Felt Art Disaster

At Bethany House, we have a monstrosity of a craft project that makes its way into the office of the newest employee to celebrate their first day. (I had to keep it up for 16 months, a new record partially because it was a long time before we hired someone new and I could pass it along and also because apparently editorial doesn’t make people display it the whole time because they’re interior design cowards.)

There are legends surrounding the original creator of this artifact. Trend-dating, indicated by the atomic tangerine flowers and gold sequins, edges the date of origin toward the 1970s and early 80s. (For reference, that’s when Janette Oke published Love Comes Softly and the rest of the series.) But no one really knows for sure, much like blurry photos of Bigfoot or unsolved cold cases.

Mystery Five: Unnamed Scrolly Things

What do you call those pretty decorative things? At a recent cover meeting, I was brutally and unfairly mocked for referring to them as “ those lovely doodly-doo whatchamacallits.”

I say unfairly because, in fact, no one else in the room could agree on the right answer. “Flourish,” “dingbat,” “decorative element,” “filigree,” “ornament,” and “embellishment” were all suggested as alternatives. Since all of these are either boring or just as odd-sounding as “lovely doodly-doo whatchamacallits,” I will continue to use my term of choice.

Side note: Ever since I found out that the Morse code on Karen Witemeyer’s Heart on the Line and the various languages on Connilyn Cossette’s Out From Egypt series all actually say something, I’ve been wondering how many of our covers contain secret messages.**

I could go on with more specific examples like The Case of the Plagiarizing Blogger with Three Names or the Mysterious Affair of the Red Pen Corrections on Public Signage, but this will have to do for now.

And to the person or robot who sent that original Facebook message…thanks for the laugh.

Do any of you have theories about these mysteries that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them.

*It was me. I did that. Clearly, I need more to do to occupy my time.
**Probably all of them. You should be at least half as paranoid as me—it makes reading more fun.

Beverly Lewis Amish Coloring Contest!

With the release of the new Beverly Lewis Amish Coloring Book, Beverly Lewis wanted a fun way to celebrate. So together with the Bethany House team, we’re announcing a chance for you to use your artistic skills to win a fun, artsy prize.

How it Works:

You can start now and enter anytime before Tuesday, September 5. I’ll collect all the entries (as described below), and pick the top entries. Those finalists will be put into an album on Beverly Lewis’s Facebook page by noon Central on Wednesday, September 6.

You and other readers can then “vote” by liking your favorite entries. The entry with the most “likes” by Monday, September 11 will win the People’s Choice Award. Beverly will also choose a winner. Both the “People’s Choice” and “Beverly’s Choice” winner will receive:  The Beverly Lewis Amish Coloring Book and an autographed copy of The Proving, a set of 50 fancy art pencils, and a $20 B&N gift card.

How to Enter:

One: Click here to download the PDF of the coloring book page. Print it out.

Two: Color! Be as creative as you like. Any medium is fine.

Three: Scan and save your entry with your first and last name in the file name. (Example: ColoringContest_Amy_Green) If you don’t have access to a scanner, you can take a picture of your entry and send that, but it won’t be as high-quality, so I’d recommend scanning if possible.

Four: Email your entry to me, Amy, at agreen@bethanyhouse.com by midnight on September 5th.

What are you waiting for? Get coloring…I’m looking forward to seeing your entries!

If you have any questions, write them below in the comments and I’ll try to answer them.

Eighteen Gifts and Giveaway Items for Book Lovers

As our fiction publicist, I see lots of author giveaways…and I know it can be hard to come up with the perfect items to include. I’ve also seen that, in general, the best giveaways aren’t the ones with an expensive grand prize like a new gadget or expense-paid trip. In fact…those tend to attract people who have no real interest in the author or books in general, which isn’t helpful if the goal is to gather more readers to social media or a mailing list. Smaller giveaways with items that readers love (and will be excited to share about) are perfect for authors.

And as a reader, I get a lot of book-related gifts (or add them to my wish-list). From experience, I know that while books are always the best present, if you’re not sure what books a reader friend has on the shelves already, a novel-related something-or-other can be pretty exciting too.

That’s why I’ve compiled this non-exhaustive list of fun items for book lovers. Most can be any-occasion gifts, while a few are more specific to authors thinking about what to use in a giveaway.

(Not-a-Disclaimer: I’m not using affiliate links or getting sponsored by any of these people. In fact, the only products Bethany House has a connection to are the coloring books I mention. I just really like this stuff and hope you will too.)

Enjoy, readers! I won’t complain if this link gets mysteriously shared with all of your friends around Christmas or your birthday. And be sure to let us know your favorite item in the comments.

One: Fun Office Supplies

Girl of All Work has some fabulous page flags and sticky notes. Of particular note are the Crazy Cat Lady and Classic Characters page flags. (They have a great lineup of different novels, but I squealed out loud when they recently added Anne of Green Gables.)

Two: Candles

I’ve stopped by the Minneapolis-based Frostbeard Studios several times, and I love what they’ve come up with in the world of bookish candles! They even have tea light sampler packs in different genres and types.

Three: Pizza

One of the wonders of modern technology is that pizza can now be ordered online. That means an author can pick a winner, ask for topping choices, and have a piping hot pizza sent right to a reader’s door on a chosen night. Jill Williamson did this recently, and it was so fun that I had to share!

Four: Clever Accessories

Out of Print has lots of nerdy bookish stuff, but here are a few of the less expensive items: library card socks and a heat-reactive banned book mug…when you pour hot liquid into the mug, the titles blank out!

Five: Setting-Specific Items

If you want a fun tie-in with your book, consider making a gift basket of items from its setting. Dani Pettrey’s Chesapeake Valor series is set in her own home area, so she’s put together giveaway packages of items mentioned in her books or from shops and restaurants that show up.

Six: Baby Books

Besides the gorgeous artwork and the wink-wink references for those who have read the adult version of the classics, BabyLit board books are just plain fun. Educational too—your reader-to-be can learn opposites from Sense and Sensibility or Spanish from Don Quixote or counting from Jane Eyre (below). They also have puzzles, dolls, and playsets (like the Pride and Prejudice one below).

Seven: Homemade Item

A few years ago, Lisa Wingate made a decoupaged prayer box for a reader. Other authors who are crafty have include homemade cards or a cross-stitched bookmark in a giveaway. Knowing the author made it sets that item apart as priceless!

Eight: Journal

Why have a normal notebook when you can write between the lines of your favorite authors? Novel Journal prints real books in tiny font to form the lines for the journal, from Dracula to The Wizard of Oz to Sherlock Holmes.

Nine: Significant Item in the Book

Several of our authors have had fun choosing an item specific to their book, whether it’s a character’s favorite food or piece of jewelry or music related to the story. (And, no spoilers, but be sure to watch Ronie Kendig’s Facebook page for a super fun giveaway next month related to her release of Crown of Souls.)

Ten: Coloring Books

You can find a variety of adult coloring books on different themes all over the place, but here are two Scripture-based ones: an under-$6 mini pocket version and a high-quality art book. Bonus if you throw in some nice colored pencils!

Eleven: Skype with the Author

Despite what you might think, readers really do love a chance to connect with an author and ask all of their burning questions. This has been a popular “item” every time an author has offered it, especially in something like a Facebook party for fans.

Twelve: Posters

Incidental Comics is one of my favorite whimsical artists, and some of his cartoons are available in poster form. Here are just a few, but there are many more of interest to readers, artists, and writers.

Thirteen: Flowers

There are lots of local flower delivery services you could use to send something fresh and beautiful to a winner from right where you are.

Fourteen: Tea

But not just any tea…Novel Tea! I can personally vouch for the “War and Peach” tea, but any of these teas (and the pretty tins they come in) are likely to be a hit. Check them out for the humorous title puns!

Fifteen: Magnets

Magnetic Poetry has several book or author-specific sets of words, to be rearranged on any magnetic surface to produce works of great genius. (The Shakespeare version on my fridge is a continual riot of iambic pentameter.)

Sixteen: Wall Decor

Litographs is my favorite for this—their prints also contain the text of the book that they represent, printed really, really tiny in the background. Here’s the Nancy Drew poster, but they have dozens of others, from modern to classic.

Seventeen: Homemade Cookies

Sure, there are services that will deliver cookies, but what could be better than something homemade by the author? (Bonus: it’s a lot less expensive!) Here’s a tip: when mailing cookies, empty and cleaned out Pringles jars make excellent packing to send them in.

Eighteen: Postcards

Obvious State has a gift collection of 50 black-and-white postcard prints from different authors. Nothing like book-related mail!

Okay, readers: which of these eighteen items would you be most excited to receive as a prize or present?

Share a Book Contest 2017!

Based on the fun of finding a can of pop with your name on it (or not, depending on how creative your parents were when naming you), I thought we’d have a little giveaway!

CokeNames

Why not try “Share a book with…”? There’s something fun about reading a book where the character shares our name. (So take note if you’re looking for birthday presents—every reader I know would love to get a book with their namesake as the main character.)

Just for fun, here are the protagonists of the Bethany House books that have released from August 2016 to August 2017. Look at the list, and if you see the name of one of your friends, comment with the name of your friend and one thing you appreciate about her. Only one comment/entry per person, please! Enter until midnight on August 9 I’ll chose three random comments and send the commenter two copies of the book—one to keep, and one to share with the namesake friend!

Remember, this is “Share a book,” so choose a book featuring a friend’s name, not your own name. Also, really close names count. (Beth for Betsey, Annie for Anne, Catie for Kate, etc. We’re pretty lenient.)

ShareaCoke

• Perla & Ella—A Tapestry of Secrets by Sarah Loudin Thomas
• Ainslee & Levi – The Artisan’s Wife by Judith Miller
• Beth & Jarrick – Where Hope Prevails by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan
• Lydia & Nicholas – A Heart Most Certain by Melissa Jagears
• Evie & Gabriel – Traces of Guilt by Dee Henderson
• Lady Ella & Lord Cayton – A Lady Unrivaled by Roseanna M. White
• Esther – The Domino Effect by Davis Bunn
• Clara & Curtis – A Love Transformed by Tracie Peterson
• Leona & Gloria – The Wish by Beverley Lewis
• Deirdre & Matthew – Love’s Faithful Promise by Susan Anne Mason
• Shira – Shadow of the Storm by Connilyn Cossette
• Deborah & Anton – From this Day Forward by Lauraine Snelling
• Gessje & Anna – Waves of Mercy by Lynn Austin
• Loni & David – The Cottage by Michael Phillips
• Wilek (William will also count) – King’s Blood by Jill Williamson
• Mercy & Mark – Fatal Frost by Nancy Mehl
• Willet (William will also count)– The Shattered Vigil by Patrick W. Carr
• Cole “Tox” & Kasey – Conspiracy of Silence by Ronie Kendig
• Jane – The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill by Julie Klassen
• Betsy & Joel – For the Record by Regina Jennings
• Adelaide & Trent – An Uncommon Courtship by Kristi Ann Hunter
• Cassidy & Allan – In the Shadow of Denali by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse
• Julianne – The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green
• Rose & Reuben – Amish Weddings by Leslie Gould
• Drew & Madeline – Murder on the Moor by Julianna Deering
• Rebekah & Nathaniel – A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexander
• Avery & Parker – Still Life by Dani Pettrey
• Justin & Angie – Long Time Gone by Mary Connealy
• Jenny & Ryan – To the Farthest Shores by Elizabeth Camden
• Grace & Alex – Treasured Grace by Tracie Peterson
• Permilla & Asher – Behind the Scenes by Jen Turano
• Hope & Luke – The Chapel Car Bride by Judith Miller
• Sallie – The Ebb Tide by Beverly Lewis
• Evie & David – Threads of Suspicion by Dee Henderson
• Kate & Tony – Dark Deception by Nancy Mehl
• Alanah & Tobiah – Wings of the Wind by Connilyn Cossette
• Nora & John – True to You by Becky Wade
• Evelyn & David – A Love So True by Melissa Jagears
• Elise & Thornton – With You Always by Jody Hedlund
• Rosalyn & Nate – The Captain’s Daughter by Jennifer Delamere
• Grace & Amos – Heart on the Line by Karen Witemeyer
• Evelyn & Simon – High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin
• Rosemary & Peter – A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White
• Loni & David – The Legacy by Michael Phillips
• Chava & Cleopatra – Egypt’s Sister by Angela Hunt
• Hope & Lance – Beloved Hope by Tracie Peterson
• Mia & Jake – The Two of Us by Victoria Bylin
• Ian – Fatal Trust by Todd M. Johnson
• Signe & Rune – The Promise of Dawn by Lauraine Snellings

Go ahead, tell us a little bit about a friend who shares a name with one of these main characters, and you’ll be entered to win two copies of that book!

 

Bethany House Reading Road Trip 2017

Welcome to the annual post where we list off the many places you can travel in the pages of Bethany House books! This is my kind of summer staycation. The books listed below came out from July 2016 to June 2017.

USA

Someday, there will be a crazy random happenstance where my home state (Indiana) or current state (Minnesota) will pull an unbelievable upset and win the state with the most books!

But this is not that day.

This year, though, West Virginia, Illinois, and New York tied for the most common setting, with three each.

There are also a few newcomers to our list this time around. If you’re a US resident, is your state represented in our year of book settings?

Alaska: In the Shadow of Denali by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse

Arkansas: Dark Deception by Nancy Mehl

California: To the Farthest Shores by Elizabeth Camden

Florida: Invitation by Bill Myers, Frank Peretti, Angela Hunt, and Alton Gansky (also takes place in Washington, California, and other locations)

Illinois: Traces of Guilt and Threads of Suspicion by Dee Henderson, With You Always by Jody Hedlund (also takes place in New York)

Kansas: A Heart Most Certain and A Love So True by Melissa Jagears

Louisiana: The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green

Maryland: Still Life by Dani Pettrey

Michigan: Waves of Mercy by Lynn Austin

Missouri: Fatal Frost by Nancy Mehl, For the Record by Regina Jennings

Montana: A Beauty Refined and A Love Transformed by Tracie Peterson

New Jersey: The Ebb Tide by Beverly Lewis (also takes place in Pennsylvania)

New Mexico: No Way Up and Long Time Gone by Mary Connealy

North Dakota: From This Day Forward by Lauraine Snelling

New York: The Domino Effect by Davis Bunn, Love’s Faithful Promise by Susan Anne Mason, Behind the Scenes by Jen Turano

Oregon: Treasured Grace by Tracie Peterson

Pennsylvania: The Wish by Beverly Lewis, Amish Weddings by Leslie Gould

Tennessee: A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexander

Texas: Heart on the Line by Karen Witemeyer

Virginia: Conspiracy of Silence by Ronie Kendig (but also set internationally…see below)

Washington: True to You by Becky Wade

West Virginia: A Tapestry of Secrets by Sarah Loudin Thomas, The Artisan’s Wife and The Chapel Car Bride by Judith Miller

Other Countries

Belgium: High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin (also takes place in France, Scotland, and other locations)

Canada: Where Hope Prevails by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan

England: An Elegant Façade and An Uncommon Courtship by Kristi Ann Hunter, Courageous by Dina L. Sleiman, A Lady Unrivaled by Roseanna White, The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill by Julie Klassen, Murder on the Moor by Julianna Deering, The Captain’s Daughter by Jennifer Delamere

India: Conspiracy of Silence by Ronie Kendig (also Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, and others)

Israel: Shadow of the Storm and Wings of the Wind by Connilyn Cossette

Scotland: The Cottage by Michael Phillips

Other Realms: King’s Blood by Jill Williamson, The Shattered Vigil by Patrick W. Carr

Catch up on our past setting lists from 2016, 2015, and 2014!

All right, readers! Let us know a fun location near where you live, historically significant or otherwise.

Six Reasons British Books Are the Best

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that American readers have long been fascinated with stories featuring their British cousins. Here, I’m talking about historical romances (though I’m sure modern-day Brits are just as dreamy). Whether we’re going all the way back to the streets of Victorian London or to the noir England of Agatha Christie, there are reasons we’re drawn to books set across the pond.

One: Tidbits of Interesting History

Those of us who grew up in the States have probably been well-educated in the (relatively short) timeline of our own country. Not to say it isn’t interesting, but there’s very little that surprises me anymore.

But The Captain’s Daughter taking me backstage behind the real workings of Gilbert and Sullivan’s famous operas? That I’d never thought of, and everything from the dangers of Victorian London to the life of an actress to the new spotlight technologies was a learning experience for me.

In the same way, did I know what a coaching inn was before reading The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill? Not a clue. But the daily routine of the inn and the threat to its survival intrigued me (and, of course, the parade of characters with secrets who came in and out).

Two: Pretty Dresses

Let’s be honest: Victorian and Regency gowns are the best.

Would we want to wear them every day? Of course not. (One word: corsets.) But it’s fun to admire the images on the cover or the descriptions in the text. And if there’s a ballroom scene? Count me in. Inherent drama plus women in beautiful dresses…what more could you want?

Unless of course you’re the Duke of Riverton from An Inconvenient Beauty by Kristi Ann Hunter. Then your thoughts might be more like this:

Of all the social events that played out in London, balls made the least sense to Griffith. They were always massively crowded, so the chances of seeing the person you actually wanted to talk to that evening were small, unless you’d arranged a meeting prior. Talking was difficult, what with the music and the people coming in and out of conversations in order to join the dancing.

And for a man who was looking to court, they made even less sense.

With gemstoned bodices and jeweled hair clips scattering the light from the multitude of candles, the finery in the room was enough to blind a man. Even the plainest of women could look exquisite with such trappings, and when the artificial beauty collided with natural beauty, men tended to lose their wits as well as their sight.

Griffin frowned. How could a man possibly form and know true feelings and opinions in an environment like that?

But either way…pretty dresses and dancing equals drama.

Three: High Levels of Intrigue

It’s been a while since there was a war fought on American soil. Believe me, I’m not complaining, but this rules out many classic suspense plots for the twentieth century. But in England, with each of the major World Wars, you have an entire history book full of content for thrilling plots. Observe the “hook” of these two novels:

Rosemary Gresham is offered the challenge of a lifetime in pre-WWI England: pose as a librarian and determine whether a certain wealthy gentleman is loyal to Britain or to Germany. (A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White)

British nurse Evelyn Marche spends her days at the hospital during WWI, but her most carefully guarded secret is that she spends her nights carrying out dangerous missions as a spy for a resistance group. (High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin)

Neither story would translate well in, say, New Jersey or Oklahoma in the early 1900s. British settings give us the chance for spies and nurses and soldiers and a whole cast of compelling characters.

Four: Nobility and Social Status

Here, my friends, is one area that our friends across the pond have us beat: the titled upper class. Lord and ladies, dukes and duchesses, and even the occasional prince are fascinating to read about.

There’s inherent tension in class differences and the endless social standards created because of them. Nothing makes a page-turner like a compelling internal conflict between needing to make an advantageous match or marrying for love (An Inconvenient Beauty, Kristi Ann Hunter) or the pressure of knowing others might not approve of the wealthy gentleman falling for the lovely American visitor (The Drew Farthering mysteries, Julianna Deering). The greater the obstacle to romance, the more I want to find out what happens next.

Five: Character Drama

Adaptations of Jane Eyre or Jane Austen or any of the original miniseries created by the BCC and others can be very well done, but it’s usually easier to connect with characters in novels because you can hear their thoughts and are fully immersed in a world you can imagine yourself. Books can go into more depth than a typical movie, and with series, authors can continue the relationship you’ve developed with the cast over months or even years.

Jennifer Delamere’s new London Beginnings series, which introduces us to the romances of three orphaned sisters, is a great example of this, or Roseanna White’s Shadows Over England that traces the exploits of a streetwise “family” of talented thieves. Once you’ve read one, you’ll be eager to find out how the other characters end up. When fictional characters feel like real people, the authors have done their jobs, and even the best costume drama can rarely beat a well-written novel.

Six: Accents

And here, I’m talking specifically about what a good British accent does to the attractiveness factor of your average hero.

“But wait,” you say, “it’s not possible to actually hear any difference in speech while reading.” I beg to differ. Not only do you hear a swoon-worthy voice in your head as you go along, but the word choice and phrasing of British heroes have just a little something different that makes their dialogue—especially the declarations of love—special.

Allow me to demonstrate.

“Darling, the longer I know you, the more certain I am that we were meant for each other. I will wait for you if you like. If you insist, I will let you go. But I will always love you. No one I have ever met has charmed me and challenged me, soothed me and nettled me, or fit so perfectly into my heart and life as you. If you leave me, I will not die.” He swallowed hard. “But I don’t think I will ever be quite whole again.” (Murder at the Mikado by Julianna Deering)

Just try to tell me that a cowboy or motorcycle dude could have pulled that off. (I didn’t think so.)

Whether you’re in it for the romantic rogue spy or the dashing duke, there’s a British-set novel for you. Pour a cup of tea (of course)…and happy reading!

If you’re a fan of British books, to celebrate sweeping country manors, crowded and dangerous London streets, and, of course, debonair and handsome heroes, Bethany House is hosting a giveaway of six of our British-set books. You can enter here!

Any other reasons I should add to this list? What draws you to British-set books?

10 Problems Only Bookworms Understand

We’re shaking things up a bit at the office this month! Our fiction publicist, Amy Green, is usually the one behind these blog posts, but I was given the opportunity to write this one. I’m Rachael Wing, the editorial and publicity intern here at Bethany House Publishers for the summer. I started reading at the age of four and have been buried in my “to-be-read” pile since then, always finding new books to add. I’ve been passionate about Christian fiction since I started book reviewing two years ago and am thrilled to now be working directly with authors and their manuscripts at my dream workplace.

As fellow bibliophiles, we’ve all picked up on some bookish habits over time yet we’ve learned to embrace them as who we are. Here are some that I admittedly relate to:

1. Owning more than one copy of your favorite book(s)

You have to own the hardcover because of how much prettier it is than the paperback (and the pages are nicer too), but you also need the ebook because you may get the urge to read it one more time and so you must always have access to it.

2. Keeping a book with you at all times

There’s a book in your bag, a few in your car, and multiple apps on your electronic device—you never know when you’ll need one! Everywhere you go, you remember to have a book with you in case you have a long wait or are stuck in an awkward situation.

3. Trying to figure out what book a person is reading without appearing to stare

Admit it. We’ve all done it. You’re walking down the sidewalk and see someone sitting on a bench reading. You try to be subtle when you glance at their book but someone always ends up notice that you’ve slowed down or turned your attention elsewhere. At that point, you give up and stop or bend your head to make out the title.

4. Being careful about spending money on essentials but splurging on books

You always go the cheap route when it comes to buying groceries, cleaning supplies, and clothes. You’ve even considered if paying the electric bill for the month is necessary because you can read by candle light, right? Though, when it comes to buying books money usually isn’t an issue. You can definitely afford to pay the extra money for the hardcover copy and you may as well buy the rest of the books in the series since you’re already there.

5. Solving a plot twist before it’s revealed and feeling like Sherlock Holmes

You knew that character was suspicious from the beginning and then they say something that supports your suspicions—you’re convinced they’re the murderer! Then their true identity is revealed and for a second you wonder if you chose the wrong career path because you’d make an excellent detective.

6. Having mixed feelings about starting a book you’ve been anticipating to read

You really want to read this new release but then you realize if you start it now, you’ll never be able to read it for the first time again! Then, you will reach the end and the entire experience will be over and you will fall into book separation depression. So, you decide to hold it for a little while and then read as slowly as possible so you can enjoy every word of it.

7. Smelling your new books

You crack open your new book and the smell of paper and ink that wafts in the air is the definition of pure happiness. Then, you bury your face in the pages for the full book-smelling experience. Who cares who is watching? It’s one of the greatest things about opening a new book!

8. Owning a wide array of bookmarks but never using them

You have a whole collection of bookmarks that you love but you never use because you’re either afraid of using them and losing them or you simply just forget. Instead you have receipts, gum wrappers, recipe cards, or whatever you can get your hands on in the moment to mark your place…but you never dog-ear a book!

9. Talking about fictional characters as if they’re real

You’re chatting with one of your friends about your weekend and you recall a funny story that happened to another friend. Only to realize after the fact that this “friend” was in fact a fictional character in a book you recently read. Oh well. You’re as close to your fictional friends as your real friends, anyway.

10. Telling yourself “just one more chapter” when you should really be sleeping

You have to be up in five hours but you remind yourself that whether you were reading or not, you’d be awake either way, because your mind is racing trying to figure out what is going to happen next! Will you regret it in the morning? Probably. You remind yourself that you can always drink another cup of coffee with extra shots of espresso and all will be well.

Don’t be ashamed if you relate to one or more of these. There’s nothing wrong with any of these situations, because reading is one of the best hobbies you can have. You are given the chance to time travel and live multiple lives in various eras, countries, and lifestyles anytime and anywhere you want. There isn’t a hobby that compares to reading, so enjoy your bookish lifestyle and try to make a dent in that TBR stack that’s waiting for you!

What are some other “bookworm problems” you have experienced?

The Five Stages of Dealing With Your TBR Pile

Any experienced reader knows the lingering stress of the TBR (To-Be-Read) Pile. As someone who is a reader and also works for a publisher that contributes to lengthening many such piles, I want to reassure you: you are not alone. I’m here to walk you through the process, show you there are others all around you dealing with TBR pile shock, and help you and your Goodreads profile find peace.

Stage One: Denial

I can do this, you think, staring down that list of books the way Rocky/Karate Kid/that quarterback in Remember the Titans faced their respective opponents. Determination. Focus. One page at a time.

(Did I have to look up a list of underdog sports movies? Yes. My greatest athletic achievements are literary triathlons, which consist of reading a book, discussing the book, and explaining why the book was better than the movie.)

Yes, you have a daunting TBR pile in front of you, but it can and will be conquered, you assure yourself, even as the list fills a thick binder. Even as you add three books for every one you check off. Even as you hear the faint but unmistakable sound of your high school math teacher lecturing on statistical probability and laughing at your baseless optimism.

But the more you stare at the list of books you want to read, promised your friends you’d read, and feel an obligation to read to better yourself as a person, reality sets in: your TBR pile may be getting out of control. Which triggers…

Stage Two: Anger

Suddenly, interfering tasks like housework and sleeping seem irritating and unnecessary, all taking up valuable reading time. You may find yourself lashing out in anger at bosses for expecting you to be present at your job, family members for having conversations with you, dust for falling, and anything else that distracts you from a page-turning read. This is normal.

Well, not exactly normal, but we’re book nerds. We have different standards. Continue reading

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?

Ten Signs You’re a Grammar Nerd

Confession: I almost, almost put “Ten Signs Your a Grammar Nerd” as the title of this blog post. Intentionally. Just to see how many people came over to decry my atrocious abuse of the English language.

Better counsel prevailed, and instead I want to welcome you to Bethany House’s little corner of the Internet, where you can be surrounded by fellow lovers of proper usage and punctuation, with nary a stray apostrophe or comma in sight.

Not sure if you belong? Here are a few signs. You know you’re a grammar nerd when:

One: You have a favorite punctuation mark. Probably a least favorite one as well. And you are fully equipped to explain why to anyone who wants to know (and quite a few who don’t).

Two: You can spot errors everywhere—Facebook posts, graduation programs, flyers on the bulletin board, lyrics for your church’s worship music—and once you see them, you can never un-see them. Never.

Three: You feel the need to look up every oddly-specific rule before sending an email or posting a Facebook update (“Does the question mark go outside of the quotation marks in this case?” “Is it an en dash or a hyphen?” “Is that the British spelling, or am I just wrong?”).

Four: You have an opinion about the Oxford comma. In fact, you might be willing to challenge someone to a duel over it. (I’m not 100% sure how this duel would proceed, but I picture two people bashing each other with Chicago vs. AP style guides until someone capitulates.)

Five: You physically twitch when spellcheck underlines something that is perfectly correct.

Six: You sometimes have nightmares about sending a text without noticing that autocorrect mangled your message.

Seven: You have corrected errors on printed materials in public, occasionally to the point of defacing private property, without getting caught.

Eight: You own red pens that vary in style and thickness. After all, every occasion demands a different correcting tool!

Nine: You understand the punch lines for all of these jokes:

“Past, present, and future walk into a bar. It was tense.”
“What do you say when comforting a grammar nerd? There, their, they’re.”
“There are three things that I love: the Oxford comma, irony, and missed opportunities.”
“What’s the difference between a cat and a comma? One has claws at the end of its paws and the other is a pause at the end of a clause.”

Ten: You have located a mistake of some sort in this post and feel ridiculously triumphant about it. (I’m sure some exist. That’s why I’m in marketing, not editorial.)

Next week on the blog, I’ll share some grammar nerd stories from our editing and marketing team members here at Bethany House, including their pet peeves and a few rules they don’t think should really be rules.

How would you finish the statement, “You know you’re a grammar nerd when…”?