What to Do If You’re in Love with a Fictional Character

Hello, readers! As Valentine’s Day approaches, I’m happy to answer the following question I was sent through our Ask Bethany House survey.*

Heart inside a book

Dear Amy,

The heroes in my favorite novels are so perfect, I think I’ve developed a bit of a crush on several of them. My friends think this is a problem since they’re not “real.” (Who cares?) But I’ve found that ending every book is difficult for me, since I always have to say goodbye to a man of my dreams. Do you have any advice?

Yours Brokenheartedly,

Recovering Romance Reader

(If you need help deciding if this letter also applies to you, check out a post from last year: 10 Signs You are in Love with a Fictional Character.)

Ah, love. It can be a complicated thing, especially when the man you’ve fallen for is seeing another woman. And fictional. And two-dimensional…literally. He’s printed on a page.

But those details aside, I’m here to help you cope with that deep feeling of loss when you finish the last page of a heart-pounding novel. The following are just a few suggestions for moving on after a book boyfriend leaves you for the fictional heroine:

Start a fan club. You can interpret this in two ways. First, it can be therapeutic to giggle and sigh with other readers over the merits of your chosen hero. There might be some heated banter over who is the best fit for said fictional hunk, but all in good fun. Second, it might be helpful to actually have a fan nearby while reading to avoid swooning.

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Journal the angst. This can be on Facebook or a blog—just get it out there. Tell everyone about the books that stole your heart (or broke it). You can even start it, “To All the Books I’ve Loved Before.”

Eat chocolate. Does this actually help? Probably not. But I feel like a point on just about every how-to list should be “eat chocolate,” so there you go.

Book-stalk the hero’s friends. After all, they’re probably just as witty and charming and attractive, right? So find out if that author has written any other books. A reader can never give up hope.

Appreciate the real men in your life. Even if you haven’t yet found “The One,” once you’ve had a few day’s distance from the latest novel, you’ll find there are several advantages actual people have over their fictional counterparts. Becky Wade has compiled a list of some of those merits—enjoy!

Send the happy couple a congratulations card. Nothing helps you get over your lost love than telling the object of your affections that you enjoyed watching his journey toward a happily-ever-after. But where to address it, you ask? I’d suggest the book’s page on Amazon or Goodreads. Turns out, other readers (and authors) like to hear that you found a romance sigh-worthy. (Just be careful not to reveal the ending…after all, maybe other readers want to have hope they might get the guy instead of the heroine.)

Start a new book. Will this make the cycle continue indefinitely? Probably. But we’re readers, after all. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Wishing you the best of luck, Recovering Romance Reader. We here at Bethany House understand your dilemma…that’s why we keep publishing books from authors who create the best fictional romances around!

One bonus recovery tip: admit your latest book crush in the comments below. Misery loves company!

*Okay, fine. No one actually sent me this question. But I can read minds—lots of you were wondering this, weren’t you? Admit it! (But never fear, the real Ask BHP post will come later this month.)

Eight Reasons Reading Should Be Considered a Winter Sport

No matter what the weather looks like where you are, here in Minnesota where Bethany House is located, we won’t be putting away our winter coats anytime soon. Maybe you live someplace warm (or, for our international readers, are having a summery start to the year). But if you’re getting a little tired of snow, here’s one way to make it more enjoyable: participate in the winter sport of reading.

Make Reading a Winter Sport

The picture that gave me the idea for this post. Fun, right?

What’s that you say? Reading is not actually a winter sport? Well, it should be. And here are a few reasons why.

One

There are a few people rugged and courageous enough to do regular outdoor things during the winter. The rest of us will be inside. Reading. And not getting frostbite or runny noses that could possibly turn into pneumonia. (Safety first!)

Two

“Reading isn’t active enough to be a sport,” you say. To which I say, come on, curling is an official sport of the Winter Olympics. It’s not like you really have to be breaking a sweat here.

Olympics

Three

Close your eyes and picture a scene that makes you think, “cozy.” Go ahead. Right now. There was someone reading a book in it, right? Maybe wrapped in a fuzzy blanket and drinking something warm by a fireplace. I feel like this is a universally recognized image of coziness and comfort, and what better time than winter to be cozy? Continue reading

Bethany House’s 2017 Reading Challenge

Welcome, readers, to our third annual reading challenge! Starting now, you have one year to read a book in all of the categories below. Bookmark the list, print it out, come back to it and check off each book as you finish them, whatever you want to do to keep track.

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Now for the fun part: if you know of a book you’ve loved that fits into one of these categories, feel free to recommend it below. This can range from, “This is my favorite Newbery Medal-winning book” to “If you have blue eyes, check out this title!”

A few that come to mind for me: Cold Shot by Dani Pettrey has a crime scene at Gettysburg National Park. Shadow of the Storm by Connilyn Cossette is in first person. Most of Lynn Austin’s novels have biblical allusions in the title (like Refiner’s Fire or All Things New). Of course, you don’t have to recommend only Bethany House books. Even nonfiction is welcome. Share any five-star titles you’d love others to read.

Have fun! And we here at Bethany House wish you many great books in 2017!

Stranded in the Library: A Christmas Parody

If you haven’t ever wished to be snowed in at a library, you probably won’t relate to this carol parody. Then again, if you haven’t ever wished to be snowed in at a library, you probably aren’t reading a publisher’s blog.

Enjoy, and Merry Christmas from Bethany House!

Stranded in a Library
(Sing to the tune of “Let it Snow”)

Oh the weather outside is frightful,
But the library’s delightful,
By the light of my cell phone’s glow,
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

There are so many to get lost in,
Like the Brontës, Twain, and Austen,
Or Harriet Beecher Stowe,
Let it snow, let it snow, Edgar Poe!

When the plows come at last I’ll find,
That I’ll mourn for my reading cut short.
But just look what I’ll leave behind:
A classical tome blanket fort.

Maybe tragedy for a while,
‘Cause Euripides’s my style.
Or the long Russian tales of woe,
Let it snow, let it snow, Romeo!

As the storm goes on, I’ll get to it:
Harper Lee or C.S. Lewis,
Then Emerson and Thoreau,
Let it snow, let it snow, V. Hugo!

Oh, my TBR pile will grow,
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

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And just a little teaser…next Thursday on the blog we’ll have our annual reading challenge! Stop by to see what categories are on our checklist this year.

Did I leave out any of your favorite classic authors? (Particularly if their names rhyme with “snow.”)

Christmas Book Title Fun

Every year at the Bethany House decorating party, I prank the nativity scene. This sounds significantly more sacrilegious than it actually is. When we set up the Holy Family surrounded by angels, I simply give the figures a miniature paper book I feel like they’d think was appropriate.

This year’s results are below.

nativity

It got me thinking—what book titles would fit well for all the cast of the first Christmas story? Could I outfit everyone with a Bethany House novel for them?

You can decide for yourselves by the end of the post. (Bonus—titles are linked if you want to read the book’s actual plot, which has nothing to do with Christmas in most cases. But they do make great gifts!)

There was really nothing I could pick for the angel Gabriel but The Messenger (Siri Mitchell). Too perfect.

Besides the nonfiction title in the picture above, I’d give Mary A Lady Unrivaled (Roseanna M. White) or Where Courage Calls (Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan) because agreeing to give birth to the Son of God took some serious bravery.

At first, I thought of A Most Inconvenient Marriage (Regina Jennings) for Joseph, but that seemed a little harsh, so I settled on A Bride at Last (Melissa Jagears) or Beyond All Dreams (Elizabeth Camden) since he got all of the angelic visions.

We had no sheep-related titles (though there are some on covers), but I felt The Shattered Vigil (Patrick W. Carr) described the shepherds well that night in Bethlehem.

For the wise men, I couldn’t decide between Chasing Hope (Kathryn Cushman) or A Shining Light (Judith Miller).

And speaking of that part of the story, how about King’s Folly (Jill Williamson) for Herod? Or we could just be blunt and go with Rules of Murder (Julianna Deering).

How about the little drummer boy? A Noble Masquerade (Kristi Ann Hunter), for sure…because he wasn’t actually in the Bible. Just in some manger scenes and that ridiculous song. I wish I could make this one into a Conspiracy of Silence (Ronie Kendig). But I digress.

Speaking of characters not in the nativity, once I started looking at my bookshelf, I just couldn’t stop, so here are a few bonus rounds.

For Ebeneezer Scrooge, Sins of the Past (Henderson, Pettrey, Eason) seems appropriate, or if we want to focus more on the happy ending, how about A Love Transformed (Tracie Peterson)?

Several came to mind for Santa Claus himself, but our icon has certainly made A Lasting Impression (Tamera Alexander). Runners-up were Undetected (Dee Henderson) for his stealthy present-distribution and Stranded (Dani Pettrey) for that most famous foggy Christmas Eve.

Which leads me to the inspiration for Rudolph’s titles: Shadow of the Storm (Connilyn Cossette) and No Other Will Do (Karen Witemeyer) basically sum up the story in two titles.

Finally, I’d give the Grinch Meant to be Mine (Becky Wade) for his thieving tendencies, and of course, A Talent for Trouble (Jen Turano).

Now, at first, I thought I had the perfect ones for Frosty the Snowman: Fatal Frost (Nancy Mehl) or Refining Fire (Tracie Peterson). Then I realized neither would do, since frost is decidedly not fatal to a snowman and fire is not particularly refining, either. The solution? Fire and Ice (Mary Connealy) captures the plot of his story well.

Your turn! I’m sure I missed some great opportunities here. Feel free to submit any additional titles you can think of for the characters above (or pick a Christmas character I didn’t mention).

Six Reasons It’s More Fun to Discuss Books Than Politics

There’s a time and a place for giving opinions on election results, of course, but here at Bethany House, we think any time and place is a good one for talking about books! Here’s why:

calm

One: Bringing up a favorite suspense writer or discussing the merits (or lack thereof) of a fictional hero isn’t likely to fill the room with awkward silences and irritated subject changes at holiday dinners. (Unless your family really hates books. If so, I’m sorry! Stop by the blog on Thanksgiving and we can chat about Anne of Green Gables or something.)

Two: Fewer lies, more truth. Okay, a novel is technically a lie in that it is about people who are not real and scenarios that did not happen and words that were not spoken. But given that it boldly announces that fact and that every person coming to a novel is aware that it is fictional, I don’t think that really counts. And anyway, you can learn a lot about truth from fiction, and can’t we all use a little more of that?

Three: Even a terrible book has an ending point, so you can complain about it while knowing that it probably won’t have a lasting impact on your life. (Other than making you wince every time you glimpse a picture of the cover online.) Also, you can throw it across the room if you want!

Four: The most heated arguments when discussing books are about things like charming rogue cowboy vs. witty British gentleman, series vs. standalones, face on the cover or not.

Not that those issues aren’t important…but I like the low stakes and fun tone that those “debates” have even with the most opinionated readers among us. Sometimes it feels a lot easier to “agree to disagree” about whether or not Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre is a jerk or if speed reading is a good idea than it is to graciously disagree about policies and platforms.

Five: If someone happens to vote the same way as you, you probably don’t have much else in common with that person. There is a chance you don’t even like each other.

Whereas if someone also loves your favorite book, there is a chance you should be best friends. Or at least you’re in for a delightful conversation (“Could you believe it when…” “What do you think will happen to him in the sequel…” “Favorite character?”), the likes of which non-readers can only wish they were a part of.

Create real connections. Talk about books.

Six: A political “party” doesn’t always seem like much of a party. But a reader party is always going to be a good time. (So thanks, readers, for dropping by the blog! I love having you.)

Time for a poll of our own! Vote on the three races mentioned in reason four. (Charming rogue cowboy or witty British gentleman, series or standalones, face on the cover or not.) Which side will you take?

Books of the Future: Let’s Make Predictions

Whenever a magazine writes an article on Christian fiction, they always ask someone at Bethany House to give an answer to this question: what is the future of the genre?

Of course, they’re looking for sensible things like which categories are seeing growth, what trends might be next, and if we’ll expand, shrink, or keep our number of titles the same in upcoming years.

But every time, I’m tempted to give them a more unexpected answer: daydreams and imaginings of what the near-distant future of book publishing might look like. Here are some of my ideas…be thinking of yours to put in the comments!

bookfuture

This post was inspired by this comic. (He’s got lots of other great bookish comics here.)

Video Features: Imagine reading along…and seeing a short video clip pop up, narrated by the main character. I can see this working really well for parts of Conspiracy of Silence (maybe a mission log from Tox or other members of his team), but it would be neat to give us a picture the settings of some historical novels as well. And every Author’s Note at the back could be the author personally giving a thank-you to people involved with the book.

Hologram Pop-up Books: I have a weakness for really beautiful pop-up books, but they haven’t really crossed over into the adult Christian fiction market (for obvious reasons). But holograms would make it easy to create a cost-effective pop-up book that could still contain a lot of text—certain scenes would just unfold before you in charming, vintage cut-paper style. Top of my list for this one would be Roseanna White’s Ladies of the Manor series. The estates and intrigue would make for some lovely, dramatic scenes, not to mention…those dresses!

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Scratch-and-Sniff Books: Like those stickers you got in elementary school that smelled like bubblegum, these pages would bring a previously unexperienced dimension of the novels to life with a puff of fragrance appropriate to the scene. A soon-to-be-released book I just read that did a great job describing smells was Jocelyn Green’s The Mark of the King: “The smoky scent of cheese braided itself with the spicy steam lifting from the teacup on the desk and cinched a noose around Julianne’s empty stomach.” “A breeze whistled through the shade, stirring the smell of decomposing leaves and warm, fallen cypress needles.” “While Paris on the Seine was fragrant with café au lait, fresh bread, leather, straw, and wine, New Orleans here by the Mississippi smelled of fish, coffee, corn, bear grease, and eau-de-vie, a cheap variety of brandy.” Hmm. Maybe that’s why a scratch-and-sniff book hasn’t already been invented yet…not all smells are pleasant ones.

Treasure Hunt Books: Okay, this is an unrealistic amount of work, but I’ve always dreamed about a book with codes/puzzles embedded in it where the reader could solve a mystery in real time. Think something like geocatching, but probably through the Internet so it would be accessible to readers everywhere. Something like: the first word of every chapter leads you to a website, where you have to type in a code from a themed crossword puzzle, then call a phone number where the answering machine gives you the ISBN of an Agatha Christie novel…and so on until you reach the resolution. Although Drew and Madeline, of Julianna Deering’s mystery series, wouldn’t know what a website was, I could see the two of them headlining an interactive hunt like this, since they’re already experienced sleuths.

Even though technology and methods of reading might change, one thing will remain the same: readers will always need a good story.

What do you think the books of the future might look like? Any currently published books you’d love to see as a pop-up book or one of the other future options mentioned?

The Bookshelf Game (and Giveaway)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seven Annoyances Every Reader Understands

Being a reader can be tough. Not only do readers face trials and tribulations in their quest to finish as many great books as possible, but non-readers just don’t get it. They can’t even begin to relate, and you’re left wishing your closet would take you to [insert favorite fictional world here], despairing because your favorite fictional hero is, in fact, fictional, and occasionally praying for main characters on accident.

This post is for all the bookaholics out there who need some reassurance that they are not alone. (Tweet this!) If you’ve ever craved a little sympathy, if you want to diagnose your novel addiction, if you just want to hear that you’re not crazy, read on, my reader friend. Read on.

Seven Annoyances Every Reader Understands

One: Too many books, not enough time.

This is a big one, folks. Of course, you have your favorite authors who are always a must-read. But then friends recommend their top picks, and you see a lovely cover at the bookstore, and really, you should be better at catching up on the classics, and what about nonfiction…and your list of books to be read grows steadily longer, until there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

We feel your pain. But keep adding to that TBR pile, keep buying that series on sale planning to get it someday, keep turning your “office” into a giant sculpture of book stacks, because those are the actions of hope.

And friends, readers should never, ever give up hope.

And all things considered, it’s a good problem to have, so keep that in mind as you stare valiantly up at your mountains of books.

Two: So. Many. Emotions.

As if real life weren’t stressful enough, we readers also heap on the conflict, intrigue, and impossible choices of dozens of fictional characters. Whether it’s a sobbing-by-the-last-page sort of ending or a story so tense that you felt like you might have a heart attack yourself before it was all over, the emotions of reading can be intense. Some books should come with a warning label.

This is really only an annoyance, though, when a non-reader, observing your vicarious emotional breakdown, says something dangerously flippant like “Those people aren’t real, you know” or the dreaded “Um…it’s just a book.”

“Just a book? Try 400 pages of beautifully written angst and agony as these people I love go through trials of all kinds and I barely hang on to hope for a happy ending.”

Sigh. Normal people just don’t get it. Continue reading

Pros and Cons to Being a Fictional Character

If you’re like me, you sometimes finish a great book, sigh, and say, “I wish I could live in this world.” That sounds great…until you really think about what being a main character in a novel might involve. (Or maybe you still think it sounds great even after all that.) Here are some of the reasons for and against wanting to be a fictional character.

Pros:

You’d get to meet and interact with some delightful characters, from outrageously quirky to lovably charming. (Although she loves her Porter family, Becky Wade has covered fictional heroes in a way that might put this toward the “con” side of things…)

Fictional-Characters

Your life would never be boring. Conversations would lack the normal lulls of small talk, and your daily routine would be quickly interrupted by some kind of conflict or chaos. Mundane details like sorting laundry or vacuuming crushed Cheerios from the van would be replaced by confrontations, acts of heroism, and dramatic chase scenes, possibly on horseback. What’s not to like?

You could be reasonably sure that you were working toward a happy (or at least hopeful) ending, one with some clear resolution to it. That might not always look like what you expected it to at the beginning (Delilah and A Haven on Orchard Lane, I’m looking at you), but sometimes real life doesn’t have the same sense of conclusion as novels do.

As a fictional character, chances are you’d have a few details of your life that set you apart from everyone else, whether that’s a sudden inherited fortune, an incredible talent for delivering witty one-liners, or actual magical abilities.

Cons:

Besides the general not-being-real thing…you’d be under the complete control of an author. And authors can be a little sadistic sometimes. (No offense to all you writers out there. You know it’s true.) The kind of trauma they’d put you through on the way to a happy ending might not be worth it.

Even if you’re the star of the book, there’s at least a 25% chance your head will be lopped off on the cover. (For those who wonder why some covers feature partially-decapitated women, part of it is an artistic/style choice for a particular look, and part of it is because readers are divided on whether they want to see a character’s face or visualize it in their own imaginations. Although I like Regina Jennings’s explanation too.)

HeadlessCovers

But at least you’d be in good company!

If you accidentally stumbled into the plot of, say, a Dani Pettrey or Dee Henderson novel, chances are good you’ll be running for your life for the next several weeks. Or if your world is suddenly a Julianna-Deering-esque mystery, chances are one or more people around you will drop dead, and who wants to deal with that?

Assuming your setting forces you to go back in time, on the plus side, the dresses are prettier. On the minus side, you’d face a significantly lower life expectancy and no Internet, indoor plumbing, or iced caramel lattes, among other downsides. Makes the modern world look pretty good, doesn’t it?

Your turn! Can you think of any pros or cons to being a fictional character in your favorite novel?