10 Things Not to Say to a Reader

This post isn’t for my fellow readers. We share the same struggles, like having way too many books that need to be read and yet still longing for our favorite authors to write a little bit faster.

No, I’m writing this for the people who wouldn’t classify themselves as dedicated readers, but who know and love at least one. If you’ve ever made a casual comment to a book lover and received an angry comeback, glare, or snarl accompanied by the reader clutching a book tighter and you don’t know why…read on. (If someone posted this on Facebook and tagged you…definitely read on.) Here are a few things you should never say to a true lover of books.

One: “You spend too much money on books.”

Listen, I get it. You’re advocating for a sensible book budget. But let’s start with the fact that the standard for “sensible” is probably set by those average people in statistics who read 1.5 books a year. (Who are these people, I ask? How do they survive?) Which is to say…it’s significantly too low. Come on, we’ll spend $4 on a Valentine’s Day card. That’s about 6 cents per word, compared to $0.0002 cents per word for your average full-price paperback, and you get hours of entertainment and re-reading pleasure. What a deal! Also, chances are good the reader in question makes regular trips to the library for a while before blowing all their savings splurging on the occasional bookstore trip. So they’re trying. Probably. Maybe.

Two: “Oh, you’re reading [TITLE]? I loved how [major ending plot twist].”

NO. Don’t even consider it. What sort of a monster are you? Even if you’re just joking and saying something implausible, like their latest Western romance ends in a nuclear apocalypse where everyone dies, this is still a bad idea. That might still be too much of a shock for a true reader’s heart to take. Better not to risk it.

Three: “I see you have a [genre] novel there. I only read real books.”

Um…okay, so we all have different tastes in books, and if you prefer literary biographies on Italian Renaissance stonemasons, whatever. That’s cool. But try not to imply that other readers are shallow or uninformed or otherwise less-than because their Goodreads list is very different from yours. General rule: mocking/belittling something that another person enjoys is not very endearing.

Four: “Don’t you have enough books already?”

This may be well-intentioned, especially if the reader in question lives among large mountains of unread books that could fall at any moment and crush the cat in an avalanche of TBR tomes. But a better alternative would be, “Don’t you need another bookshelf already?” (The answer is probably yes. Start that Christmas list early.)

Five: “The problem with fiction is that it’s just a bunch of made-up lies.”

I could insert lots of quotes from great writers like C. S. Lewis and Madeleine L’Engle about how fiction is capable of revealing truth, often better than any nonfiction. But if you genuinely believe that fiction is a paperback falsehood collection, I probably won’t be able to change your mind. Maybe you just haven’t read a novel that connects with you, one where the dialogue is almost a transcript of things you’ve said—or wished you’d said—and you turn the last page thinking that now you can understand others more deeply. I hope you find that book soon…and in the meantime, pass me another bundle of made-up lies.

Six: “Shouldn’t you be [insert household task or project here] instead of reading?”

Some people have the strange idea that dust, which accumulates seconds after being cleared off, should be regularly removed from all horizontal surfaces in a home. And that there are only so many times you can re-wear clothes before laundry becomes a code-red need. Or that meals should occasionally come from the oven rather than a delivery vehicle or microwave. To which I say: priorities, people. Unless your to-do list contains something about smuggling nuclear codes, the stakes are probably higher in whatever book your loved one is reading. Just leave them alone. The dust will still be there after they’re done with the last chapter.

Seven: “What’s your favorite book?”

Maybe a few rare readers out there have a ready answer, but this can be a paralyzing difficult decision for most. The key to this is editing the question to make it more specific. Try “What have you read this month that you’ve enjoyed?” or “Do you have a genre that you gravitate toward?” or “What is your favorite historical novel set in Nebraska between 1860 and 1873 that features a seamstress, a mysterious illness, and a loveable horse?” Those are all questions readers can answer without feeling disloyal to dozens of other beloved titles that will stare at them accusingly as soon as they look back at their shelves and remember all the ones they didn’t have time to list.

Eight: “So, one of your hobbies is reading? Cool. I haven’t read a book since I got out of high school/college and they stopped requiring them.”

Wow. Okay. We know that not everyone is a reader. No judgment here. But an announcement like this might shock your reader friends so deeply that they will be unable to do anything but stare in bewilderment, leading to a long, awkward pause while they try to decide whether or not you’re joking and think about how to respond. Kind of a conversation-killer.

Nine: “That movie was great on its own. I don’t need to read the book.”

Since there are exceptions to everything, I’m sure I can think of a movie adaptation that was better than the original book. [Thinks. Thinks more. *crickets*] Anyway, regardless, the book will always be different than the movie, just because of what it’s able to do in exploring the inner lives of the characters that a screenplay just can’t give you. If you enjoyed a movie, it’s worth at least trying the book. And if you didn’t enjoy the movie, don’t necessarily blame the book—they might be totally different. (And sure, readers can sometimes be snobbish about this, but for good reason. We’ve had our dreams crushed too many times by high expectations and sub-par adaptations. Underneath that bookish superiority is a broken heart. Tread lightly.)

Ten: “Those people aren’t actually real, you know.”

Yeah, we know. Most of the time we can sort our real friends from our fictional ones. (There are exceptions, especially for long ongoing series.) But it is still perfectly and completely justified to expend emotions—tears, rants, joyful exclamations—on the ups and downs of people who don’t actually exist. Like, at a certain point if things go too far, you might need to intervene, but mostly it’s better to ask, “Oh, what happened to your characters today?” Especially if there are tissues balled up on the carpet, giving you two options: either be sympathetic or run.

Okay, readers who shared this with the non-readers in your lives: which of these would you least like to hear? Can you think of anything that I left out?

5 Signs That You’re a Booklover

Today on our blog, we have a special guest: Serena Hanson, a life-long reader and our Bethany House summer intern. She’s got some great ways to diagnose your addiction to books. See how many apply to you!

You know you’re a Booklover if you show these common symptoms:

1. You suffer from distraction.

When you’re in the middle of a good novel, it can be very difficult to focus on ordinary tasks. It can be a small, nagging sensation in the back of your mind that you’re missing something. Or it can be full-blown obsession over getting home to find out how in the world the main character is going to get out of the mess he’s in. Either way, it is very distracting.

2. You are unable to stop reading.

If you find yourself constantly thinking, “just one more chapter,” you’re a Booklover. Once you start a novel, it’s almost impossible to stop. You may find yourself looking at the clock, only to think: “Sure, it’s one in the morning, but I need to know if his message was in time to save his love from her kidnapper!” Or you might walk around the house unable to tear yourself away from the book in your hands, bumping into doorframes and answering in monosyllables whenever anyone speaks to you. Many Booklovers have also been known to burn their dinners by attempting to read and cook at the same time.

3. You get book hangovers.

Have you ever finished a good novel and felt like you can’t quite adjust back to reality? You walk around for the next few hours or days in a slight haze, irritable, slightly depressed, and just not yourself. The fact is, you’re not yourself. Part of you is still stuck between the pages of that novel. You haven’t fully returned to this world yet.

4. Friends and family members notice that you talk to yourself.

Okay, you’re not actually talking to yourself. You’re talking to book characters. The novel gets exciting, and you just can’t contain yourself. I know that I’m definitely guilty of this one.

If you have said any of the following to a printed page, you are a prime candidate for a Booklover diagnosis:

  • “Nooooooo!”
  • “Can’t you see that it’s a trap?”
  • “He’s lying to you! She doesn’t love Randall. She never did!”
  • “Wow buddy, even I saw that coming.” Or, vice versa: “Oh my goodness! I never even guessed!”
  • “Get in there and tell her how you feel!”
  • “Shoulda listened to me five chapters ago and you wouldn’t be in this mess.”
  • “So beautiful.” *sniff sniff* “I knew this day would come.”

5. You experience random outbursts of crying.

Other people might look at you in surprise, but you know that your tears are completely justified. The protagonist’s brother has just died, or two lovers have parted never to see each other again, or the faithful golden retriever fell off a cliff trying to save a baby, or any number of horrible things! Seriously, they should have a warning label on books: “May cause tears and/or the desire to drown your sorrows in chocolate.”

If you have two or more of these symptoms, you should seek advice at your local bookstore immediately. There is no known cure for this condition, but don’t panic. It is very common and is not life threatening. In fact, some even say that it enhances your life (and if they do, they’re probably Booklovers themselves).

Okay, readers, time to share: which Booklover symptom do you relate to most?

I’m Serena Hanson, the summer fiction intern at Bethany House Publishers and a confirmed Booklover. I’ve loved stories since before I can remember, from my mom reading me board books about raisins and strollers to devouring full-length novels as I grew up. As a girl, my favorite pastime was sitting in a hammock I made out of a bed sheet, reading whatever new book I’d found at the library.

Bethany House Reading Road Trip 2018

Welcome to another round of travel through the pages of books! This is a yearly feature where we show you where our latest releases are set so you can take a novel vacation even during your staycation. The books below are published by Bethany House between July 2017 and June 2018. Enjoy!

US Settings

Alaska: Out of the Ashes by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse

California: In Places Hidden by Tracie Peterson

Colorado: The Two of Us by Victoria Bylin

Georgia: Deadly Proof and Lone Witness by Rachel Dylan, Possibilities by Debra White Smith

Kansas: A Chance at Forever by Melissa Jagears

Maryland: Blind Spot by Dani Pettrey

Michigan: The Road Home by Beverly Lewis (also set in Pennsylvania)

Minnesota: Fatal Trust by Todd M. Johnson, The Promise of Dawn and A Breath of Hope by Lauraine Snelling

Missouri: Blind Betrayal by Nancy Mehl

Nevada: The Accidental Guardian by Mary Connealy

New Mexico: Too Far Down by Mary Connealy

New York: A Dangerous Legacy and A Daring Venture by Elizabeth Camden, Out of the Ordinary by Jen Turano, Together Forever by Jody Hedlund

North Carolina: Probing by Bill Myers, Frank Peretti, Angela Hunt, and Alton Gansky (along with other states)

Pennsylvania: The Proving by Beverly Lewis, A Plain Leaving by Leslie Gould, A Refuge Assured by Jocelyn Green

Oklahoma: Holding the Fort by Regina Jennings

Oregon: Beloved Hope and Cherished Mercy by Tracie Peterson

Texas: Hearts Entwined by Karen Witemeyer, Mary Connealy, Regina Jennings, and Melissa Jagears (along with other states), More Than Meets the Eye by Karen Witemeyer, First Impressions by Debra White Smith

Washington: Falling for You by Becky Wade

West Virginia: The Sound of Rain by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Wisconsin: The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright

Other Countries

Australia: Amanda by Debra White Smith (Tasmania specifically)

Egypt: Egypt’s Sister by Angela Hunt, Where We Belong by Lynn Austin

England: A Name Unknown and A Song Unheard by Roseanna M. White, An Inconvenient Beauty and A Defense of Honor by Kristi Ann Hunter, The Ladies of Ivy Cottage by Julie Klassen, A Most Noble Heir by Susan Anne Mason, The Heart’s Appeal by Jennifer Delamere

Iraq: Crown of Souls by Ronie Kendig (along with Egypt, Afghanistan, Germany, and other countries)

Israel: Judah’s Wife by Angela Hunt, A Light on the Hill by Connilyn Cossette

Italy: The Assault by Bill Myers, Frank Peretti, Angela Hunt, and Alton Gansky (along with other countries)

Nevis: Keturah by Lisa T. Bergren

Scotland: The Legacy by Michael Phillips, Death at Thorburn Hall by Julianna Deering

Other Realms

For when it’s not enough to visit places on Earth…

King’s War by Jill Williamson

The Wounded Shadow by Patrick Carr

SettingMaps

And since I’ve been putting these together for the past five years, here’s a map that shows the US states covered by Bethany House books in that time (links below the map). If your home state isn’t covered, well…time to message an author?

Enjoy the other road trips by checking out past years’ lists:

2017

2016

2015

2014

Readers, what was a recent vivid setting that you traveled to in the pages of a book?

Five Novels with Librarian Characters

National Library Week ended last Saturday, so I know this post is several days late. In my defense, I celebrated by traveling on a book tour with Beverly Lewis, who spoke and signed and met readers at a number of fantastic libraries in the Midwest. (You can view pictures of those signings here to get a glimpse.)

That got me started thinking about some delightful novels with librarian heroines. To celebrate libraries and librarians everywhere, give these books a try.

Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden

Librarian Character: Shy-but-fierce Anna O’Brien, one of the few female librarians in the early days of the Library of Congress.

Additional Fun Fact: The author, Elizabeth Camden, is a real-life research librarian at a university.

Bookish Quote: “Ever since becoming a librarian, she’d been feeling the vibrant golden chain that reached back centuries to other librarians, archivists, and historians, all of whom had chosen the same quest: the collection and preservation of the world’s knowledge. Was there any more noble pursuit in all of human history?”

Wonderland Creek by Lynn Austin

Librarian Character: Imaginative and somewhat-flighty Alice Grace Ripley, who supplies books to rural Appalachia when she loses her librarian job during the Great Depression.

Additional Fun Fact: The story includes historical details about “packhorse librarians” who rode up the mountains with books in the 1930s.

Bookish Quote: “Librarians are serious people, seldom given to idle jocularity. The reason for this, I believe, is because we are overwhelmed by the enormous number of good books waiting to be read, leaving little time for frivolity. My personal list of must-read books presents a daunting challenge; I can’t even imagine the pressure that our head librarian must be under.”

A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White

Librarian Character: The mysterious Rosemary Gresham, posing as a librarian to spy on a potential threat to Britain during WWI.

Additional Fun Fact: All of our ideas for the book cover revolved around a library scene, but a few of the alternate covers showed Rosemary’s (fake) wire-rimmed spectacles.

Bookish Quote: “How bad could a library really be? She had her answer when Holstein swung the double doors open, inward. Perhaps, once, the room had been majestic. The ceiling soared high overhead, a magnificent mural painted on it. The chamber stretched the whole width of the house. Shelves lined the walls, floor to towering ceiling. Lined with books, all of them. Then with books stacked in front of them. Books stacked on the floor. Books stacked on the chairs, the tables, lining the windowsills. Boxes of them. Random cases of them at odd places.”

True to You by Becky Wade

Librarian Character: Sweet and spunky Nora Bradford, genealogist and library director in a historical village.

Additional Fun Fact: Nora is a true bookworm who is particularly fond of period dramas—several real ones and one Becky invented for the story.

Bookish Quote: “I found this place five years ago,” she told him. “I love it except that I’ve run out of bookshelf space again, so I’m going to have to declare eminent domain on yet another wall. I don’t have many walls left. Soon I’ll have books as a kitchen backsplash.”

The Ladies of Ivy Cottage by Julie Klassen

Librarian Character: Gentlewoman Rachel Ashford, the somewhat-reluctant owner of a lending library she created with books inherited from her father.

Additional Fun Fact: The quotes introducing Chapter One are excerpts from primary sources about the circulating libraries of the Regency period.

Bookish Quote: He grinned. “Did I not promise you would learn to enjoy reading? And far more quickly than I imagined.”
She nodded. “And I’ve told several people how much I am enjoying the book, so I already have a waiting list to read it when I am finished.”
His dark eyes glimmered with approval and something more. Admiration? Fondness? Pleasure and fear twisted through her in a single chord. Careful, Rachel warned herself. Don’t confuse a love of books with something more.

Just for fun, we’ll pick two commenters to win their choice of one of the books above. (Winners will be chosen on 4/26/18.) To enter, answer this question in the comments: What is something you love about your local library?

Ten Book Lover Conversation Hearts (That Really Should Exist)

You know those candy hearts that show up around this time of year? The ones with sweet mottos like “Crazy 4 U” or “Kiss Me” written on them? I’ve always thought they needed to be more specific. And by that I mean…bookish. Here are ten new conversation hearts that don’t exist but totally should.

(For the purpose of this post, we’re pretending that these candies actually have flavors, when we all know they really taste like chalk with slight tints of artificial coloring.)

The Basics

Do I know why “love” is abbreviated “luv” when it saves only one letter and looks ridiculous? No, I do not. Just go with it. This is your standard “declare where your heart is” candy.

Ideal flavor: Classic cherry.

 

Use this as an excuse to keep reading…not that you need an excuse. (And not that you actually need to keep to the limit described here.)

Ideal flavor: Potato chip. Because you can’t eat just one! (Hey, JellyBelly’s most popular flavor is Buttered Popcorn. This could work.)

 

Wouldn’t we all? I’d suggest keeping a candy dish of these on your desk at work or near whatever appliance is responsible for your least-favorite household task.

Ideal flavor: Cinnamon and sadness.

Could this apply to situations other than being completely engrossed in the last few chapters of a page-turning book? I mean…I guess. If people have other hobbies besides reading that would lead them to threaten people, but that’s not something I can personally relate to.

Ideal flavor: Arsenic. (Kidding.) (Mostly kidding.) What about licorice? To me at least, that’s basically the same thing.


For when “call me” or “date me” is too subtle. Let that special someone know what gift would be really attractive. Seriously, why people exchange chocolate and cards on Valentine’s Day instead of books is beyond me.

Ideal flavor: Flirty fruit punch.

Specialized – For True Readers Only

Whether you’re mourning the fact that your to-be-read pile will grow until the day you die or pledging your loyalty to adding to said pile no matter the cost, this one’s for you.

Ideal flavor: Everlasting gobstopper. (Not entirely sure that’s a flavor; Willy Wonka didn’t return my calls.)

Book boyfriends: breaking hearts everywhere by technically not existing.

Ideal flavor: Tropical fruit, like the island where you and the (fictional) man of your dreams could travel together….


When you want to #humblebrag about the advance reader copy you got of a book that won’t come out for several months and taunt all of your book-loving friends who have to wait for the release date like mere mortals. (Oh wait…is that just me? My bad.)

Ideal flavor: Green apple and power trip.


For those of you who know what the Oxford comma is…and have opinions about it. Comes in gif form for you to include in passive-aggressive comments on badly-written social media posts.

Ideal flavor: Lemon. Or maybe red pen ink.


Stock up on these anytime a new movie adaptation comes around. Bonus points if you bring them into the theater and hand them out.

Ideal flavor: Grape with a hint of crushed expectations

If you wish you had a whole bag of these candy hearts, then you should be sure to stop by our Valentine’s Day Facebook Party on Friday, February 16. There will be book (and bookish gift) giveaways, plus games and contests, storytime excerpt readings, and more! The event is in the morning/early afternoon, but the giveaways will be open for 24 hours afterward, so RSVP to get a reminder whether you can come during the timeframe or not. Hope to see you there!

Can you think of any bookish conversation hearts that need to be made?

Bethany House’s 2018 Reading Challenge

We’re now two weeks into the new year, but if you haven’t yet nailed down all of your resolutions (or if you’ve given up on one already and need a replacement), here’s our annual challenge for all of you ambitious readers out there.

Obviously, this is just for fun, and a chance for you to pick up a book that might not have been on your radar before, but the “rules” we usually play by is that one book can only fulfill one category. Take a look and see if you can already think of some titles that would check off these boxes:

 

I’d love for you to recommend titles that fit these categories to your fellow readers. A few that come to mind for me right away: Leslie Gould’s Courtships of Lancaster County series are each inspired by Shakespeare’s plays, Lisa Wingate’s Never Say Never has a car on the cover, Becky Wade’s True to You include snippets of letters and other fun exchanges between characters, and Victoria Bylin’s Someone Like You is also a song.

Help us fill a reading suggestions list—which titles can you think of to add?

Seven Ways to Hint that You Want Books for Christmas

Christmas is coming up, and if you’re like me, you want to make sure as many smooth, rectangular packages are underneath the tree as possible. I’m referring to the best presents of all: books. (If you thought I meant gift cards, this probably isn’t the post for you.)

Here are some tips to make sure others get the hint that you’d rather have a new novel or biography than another vial of body wash or pair of socks.

Oh, sure, you could just add a book to your wish list or even outright ask for a particular title as a gift. But come on, readers. We can be more clever than that. Let’s help others in our life realize what we really want for Christmas.

One: Choose a Prominent Place: Tape a picture of a book to a milk carton with the caption: “Have You Seen This Book Under the Christmas Tree?” Add “please” if you’re feeling polite. Other options include: taping a note to a mirror, creating a computer screensaver or lockscreen with a particular book cover, or using up a whole pad of sticky notes with the title’s name and leaving them in frequently-used locations.

Two: Stage an Overheard Conversation. Have a fake phone chat with a friend (for the purposes of this example, we’ll call her Minerva, because why not?). After a bit of small talk with appropriate pauses, wait until you know a friend or family member is nearby, but don’t let that person know you’re aware of their presence. Then say something like, “Can you believe [author’s name] book is coming out just in time for Christmas? Oh, Minverva, I’d be delighted if someone was kind enough to buy me [title] this year!” This has the advantage of being so subtle that the gift-giver will think the present is a total surprise!

Three: Leave a Note for Santa Lying Around. I suggest something like this: “Dear Santa, Whether I’ve been good or not this year is totally irrelevant to the present I’m requesting. Surprised? Well, let me explain. Studies have shown that reading increases empathy and abstract reasoning skills. Also, buying books supports authors, and the following books are written by people who are on the “nice” list (I checked). [Insert title list here] In conclusion: send me books, Santa, not because I deserve it, but because you want to help me become a better person. Sincerely, [your name]” (This is guaranteed to get the attention of someone used to reading saccharine-sweet accounts of exaggerated good behavior.)

Four: Mark the Target Locations: If you’re shopping with a friend or driving through town with your spouse, be sure to sigh longingly whenever you pass a bookstore. Possibly add an indirect, helpful comment like, “If I had a million dollars, I would spend all of them there. On these specific titles. In time for Christmas so I have something to read this January. Hypothetically, of course.”

Five: The Accidental Text. Tell a friend or family member that you’re going to send them a picture of something cute—a puppy with a red sweater you saw on the way to work or your daughter in her angel costume. Instead, text the cover of the book you want. Then say, “Oops! My mistake. I must have that picture on here because I’m hoping someone will buy it for me for Christmas.” Then send the real picture so the person will be in a sentimental mood and buy you the book right away. This works particularly well to influence givers who aren’t in your immediate area.

Six: Enlist the Nativity. Copy some covers of favorite books from the Internet and print them out in miniature. Cut out and fold into a book shape, then insert into the arms of the wise men. (Gold, frankincense, and myrrh can be used to prop them up for the best effect.) Then, dangling from the stable roof, hang up a sign that says, “What Jesus wished the wise men would have brought.” Someone will get the hint.

Seven: Sing. Every time “All I Want for Christmas is You” comes on the radio, change “you” to “books.” If someone corrects you, deny that these are not the original and most logical lyrics. Because clearly this is a very deep and coherent song, so if it’s really “I just want you for my own,” referring to a person, instead of “I just want them for my own” referring to the latest paperbacks, isn’t that a little possessive and selfish? And why would Mariah not need to hang her stocking by the fireplace except because paper is flammable and her precious books could go up in flames? I have questions, my friends. Questions that can only be answered with literature.

Do you have any favorite techniques on this list, readers? Or any additional ideas?

10 Book Small Talk Questions

Most of us here at Bethany House are admitted book nerds. (There was a lunch conversation where we discussed our favorite punctuation marks.) I actually own a game called Jenga for Book Lovers, which is your typical pull-out-a-block-from-the-tower game, but with reading-related questions on each of the pieces that you then read aloud and discuss. Most of the questions are fairly general, asking you to name a favorite genre or character or asking if you prefer ebooks or print.

It did get me thinking, though: what are some interesting conversation starters among readers? If you’re having a social event with your book club, need inspiration for a book blog post, or just want to quiz your fellow reading friends, here are some that I came up with.

One: What sort of stats would you have to track if you formed a version of Fantasy Football, but with authors instead of sports figures? (Character deaths? Vocabulary choices? Bestseller status or just number of tissues needed for the ending?)

Two: Name a classic you feel is overrated and should never be required in schools.

Three: What genre, character type, or trope that most people go crazy for do you secretly (or not-so-secretly) hate?

Four: Is there a book you’re embarrassed to admit you have never read? How about one that you’re embarrassed you have read.

Five: What would make you enjoy a book that didn’t have a traditional happy ending? (Or do you actually prefer those?)

Six: Pick an author, living or dead, who you would want to meet. What questions might you ask that person?

Seven: What is a book published in the last few years that you think will be considered an enduring classic in one hundred years? Why would you say that?

Eight: Have you ever actually thrown a book across the room? Why? (Or why did you consider it?)

Nine: You can live in any book’s world for a day, but only as an observer. Which book do you choose, and what day?

Ten: Can you remember a particular childhood book, series, or author that made you love reading?

Pick your favorite question above and answer it in the comments. I’d love to get to know some of the frequent readers of our blog by hearing your answers!

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.