Is This Wrapped Present a Book? (A Handy Flowchart)

I don’t know about all of you, but I’m on constant Christmas surveillance to detect my favorite presents under the tree…books! After years of careful research, I’ve come up with some ways to be confident in my guessing abilities.

This is Amy Green, fiction publicist…and sneaky book-present detective. Here is my top-secret method for your instruction and use. Enjoy!

Okay, readers, what tips have you used to determine whether you have any book presents under the tree?

Ask BHP: Does Bethany House Have Any Christmas Traditions?

Next in our Ask Bethany House blog series, a seasonal question! One reader wrote, “Beyond the normal Christmas office party, what holiday traditions does Bethany House have?”

Given that I am currently listening to instrumental carols and watching snow fall gently outside, it felt like the perfect time to share some favorite holiday activities from our offices in Minnesota. Maybe you’ll find a new tradition or two!

Decoration Day

Early in December, Chris from our marketing department gets together a crew to bring out the boxes and deck the halls, from the lunchroom to the stairwells to our tree. On the days when I need to stay late or come in early, it’s lovely to see the golden glow of lights in the dark Bethany House office.

Christmas Potluck

Yes, this is separate from our Christmas party, and it involves SO MUCH FOOD. Everyone brings their A-game for this potluck in particular, and you’ll come into the kitchen to find an array of Crockpots and appetizer trays crowding the counters. Someone always brings cider (the best) and eggnog (why bother?), and it always pays to scope out the dessert table early.

Hope Academy Book Project

We love the mission of Hope Academy in Minneapolis, and every year, we order two books for each child in one classroom to take home (we’re assigned to third grade this year). A lot of kids in the school don’t own many books, and they get so excited every year to unwrap them! Bethany House staff volunteer to wrap the books (not my personal strength; my wrapping jobs are always…rustic), and deliver them to the kids. There’s a fun time afterward where we read the first few chapters of one of the books with the kids in a small “buddy” group. And we always love listening to Hope Academy’s choir serenading all the volunteers with carols!

Julie Klassen’s Booksigning

Not a holiday tradition, per se, but since Julie’s books release in December and she’s one of our few local authors, several Bethany House staff members enjoy attending (and bringing treats to) her launch event and presentation at Barnes & Noble. This year, there was an interactive five-minute mystery to solve to celebrate The Bridge to Belle Island. (The plot: Who stole Julie’s rare copy of Pride and Prejudice? The scheming editor, the flustered first reader, the jealous-of-Mr.-Darcy husband or the well-intentioned assistant?) It’s fun to enjoy the event and see readers buying lots of books as Christmas presents!

The Nativity Scene

This really goes with the decorating bit, but I’m always put in charge of checking our latest titles to see which ones we should add to the office manger scene. From 2019, I decided Mary would be very interested in A Song of Joy by Lauraine Snelling, given her own joyful song, and that one of the angels needed to check out On Wings of Devotion by Roseanna M. White.

Emails About Goodies

Okay, you laugh, but often at this time of year, authors or advertisers will send small gifts to our office—usually in the form of something edible. Once the treats are set out in a common area, an email is the starting gun for a stampede of sweet-seekers. (Okay, I’m exaggerating a little bit, but you do not want to come between me and the last chocolate truffle, that’s all I’m saying.)
There are other festivities that will go on—everything from Secret Santa exchanges to mysteriously-appearing chocolates in the little stockings hanging outside marketing offices—but those are the main yearly traditions. I hope you enjoyed hearing about them!

What are your Christmas traditions, at work or otherwise?

December 2019 New Releases

December at Bethany House is full of traditions, including decorating the office, eating dishes at our famous potluck (which is today), and attending our Christmas service project, but one of my favorite things to celebrate is the release of our new books this festive month! In case you need to snag a holiday gift for a reader on your list, these new releases would be perfect. (Click on the covers to read the first chapter of each.)

 

The Bridge to Belle Island by Julie Klassen

Plot Summary: While Benjamin investigates a mysterious death, evidence takes him to a remote island on the Thames. There, Isabelle is trapped by fear and has a recurring dream about a man’s death. Or is it a memory? When a murder brings everyone under suspicion, and the search for truth brings secrets to light, she realizes her island sanctuary will never be the same.

 

Seconds to Live by Susan Sleeman
Homeland Heroes #1

Plot Summary: When cybercriminals hack into the U.S. Marshal’s Witness Protection database and auction off personal details to the highest bidder, FBI Agent Sean Nichols begins a high-stakes chase to find the hacker. Trouble is, he has to work with U.S. Marshal Taylor Mills, who knows the secrets of his past, and the seconds are slipping away before someone dies.

 

The Major’s Daughter by Regina Jennings
The Fort Reno Series #3

Plot Summary: Caroline Adams returns to Indian Territory craving adventure after tiring of society life. When she comes across swaggering outlaw Frisco Smith, his plan to obtain property in the Unassigned Lands sparks her own dreams for the future. When the land rush begins, they find themselves battling over a claim—and both dig in their heels.

 

Echoes among the Stones by Jaime Jo Wright

Plot Summary: Mystery begins to follow Aggie Dunkirk when she exhumes the past’s secrets and uncovers a crime her eccentric grandmother has been obsessing over. Decades earlier, after discovering her sister’s body in the attic, Imogene Flannigan is determined to obtain justice. Two women, separated by time, vow to find answers . . . no matter the cost.

 

And now, an important question, readers: how do you request books as Christmas gifts? A wish list? Subtle hints? Clipped-out catalog listings? Inquiring minds want to know.

Prayer for Authors: December 2019

Since it’s the first Sunday of the month, we’ll be continuing the Bethany House Fiction tradition of taking time to pray for authors who have new releases coming out this month. I’m Amy Green, the fiction publicist here, and I’m thankful for all of the readers who show their support for our authors in the way that matters most: by praying for them. To read more about the reasons behind this time of prayer, go to this post.

Prayer

Authors with Books Releasing in December:

Regina Jennings
Julie Klassen
Susan Sleeman
Jaime Jo Wright

Verse of the Month: Feel free to use the text of this verse to guide your prayers for these authors, as well as other people in your life who you want to remember in prayer today.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”—Colossians 3:17 (NIV)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For the ability to have times of rest during a busy holiday season and launch month.
  • For excellence in storytelling as they work on future projects.
  • For those who will receive one of their books (or other books by Christian authors) for gifts this year to be impacted by the message they contain.

It’s a joy to have such a great group of readers joining us in prayer for these authors. Thank you so much for doing so!

Ask BHP: What’s It Like Being Married to an Author?

This question for our Ask Bethany House blog series might just be my favorite yet: “Any chance you can ask some of your authors’ husbands about the interesting/amusing things they’ve lived through while being married to an author? I’d love to know!”

Was this question submitted by a real reader, or a spouse of one of our novelists trying to find out if he’s the only one who finds writers’ quirks strange? We may never know. But I do know that when I asked our authors to submit a line or two from their husbands about being up close and personal to the novel-writing life, I got some great answers! Enjoy.

Dave, husband of Beverly Lewis: “Being married to a novelist means I get to enjoy the roleplaying Bev and I do for some of the protagonist’s scenes and dialogue with her love interest.”

Peter, husband of Leslie Gould: “I get to go along with Leslie on research trips and look, listen, and participate in conversations that turn into stories, from imagining an Amish girl at Gettysburg in 1863 to visiting on the porch with a contemporary Amish family in Indiana.”

Paul, husband of Elizabeth Musser: “As a writer, she guesses (correctly) the ending of every movie we watch. Spoiler alert!”

Ivan, husband of Mary Connealy: “I was reading one of my wife’s books once (I forget which one), but Mary tends to kill off worthless husbands so the hero can come riding to the rescue. Knowing what I’ve heard about authors drawing on their own lives for their books, I couldn’t stop trying to figure out if I was the hero or the worthless husband.”

Mark, husband of Susan Sleeman: “When I come home from work I never know where your mind will be. Sometimes you’re killing people. Sometimes helping people escape from an evil villain, or worse, you’re in the mind of the villain.”

Bill, husband of Elizabeth Camden: “My wife usually has scenes with different ethnic cuisines in her books. Neither one of us are great cooks, so we go out to do ‘research’ at cool restaurants all over town. We’ve been to German beer-gardens, a Polish deli, a Japanese place, and lots of Irish pubs.”

“His Highness,” husband of Becky Wade: “I never get to figure out how a movie ends on my own. She always tells me what’s going to happen before it does.” (From Becky: “I still feel sheepish about ruining The Sixth Sense for him, poor guy!”)

Jacob, husband of Kristi Ann Hunter: “She analyzes. Everything. And I mean e-ver-y-thing.”

Mike, husband of Dani Pettrey: “The most interesting thing is probably drifting off to sleep while she talks herself through the latest way to plot and execute the demise of the victim in her next book. In the morning, my fitness tracker says I basically slept with one eye open the entire night!”

Tim, husband of Nicole Deese: I was married to my wife for over eight years before she started writing her first novel. In that time I witnessed many of the characteristics that contributed to her becoming an outstanding author. Creativity, humor, emotion, passion (and a desire to become an expert in things she was passionate about) and the ability to tell a story that would enrapture any room were on full display before she wrote word one of her first book.

But as she prepares to release her tenth book, the thing that has been the most interesting to me through this whole journey is how…unexpected it was. Hear me. I was first drawn to my wife because of many of the same qualities I just mentioned. I knew she was funny. But I didn’t know she would be able to write humor that would make me snort water out of my nose. I knew she was great at expressing emotion when she told stories, but I didn’t know I’d be sitting on a crowded airplane reading her latest book and trying to cover my man-sobs with a too-small cocktail napkin. No, I didn’t expect that.

I guess I should have seen it coming before she wrote her first book. With her tenth book in process, I definitely should know that anytime I read something she’s written I can expect to be surprised. But the interesting thing is that every time I read something new she’s written I’m totally caught off guard all over again. Maybe I’m just a slow learner. Or maybe she just keeps getting better.

Aren’t these answers heartwarming? What do you think would be an interesting aspect of being family members to a writer? (Or you can speak from personal experience if you are!)

6 Ways Books Are Like Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving is coming up soon, and with that, I got to thinking about the many similarities between this traditional festive feast and how I approach reading books.

Skeptical? Read on, my friend. Read on.

One: You feel a deep gratitude for the people you spend time with.

Whether they’re your real family gathered for the celebration…or fictional friends who feel just about as real. Who here counts books among their blessings? (Hopefully all of you. If not, you’re not reading the right books.)

Two: There’s always something to pass around.

In my family, the rule of Thanksgiving dinner is “Don’t ask, just pass,” which I feel applies pretty well to the way I foist my favorite books on—I mean, generously share them with—my unsuspecting friends.

Three: Everybody has different (often very strong) opinions on what’s good or bad.

There’s no argument like an argument over whether to serve mashed potatoes and gravy or sweet potatoes with those little marshmallows…unless you watch a die-hard romance lover argue with a literary fiction fan. As with food, to each their own! (Except I think we can all objectively agree that ham is tastier than turkey.)

Four: You’ll be on the edge of your seat, wanting to find out what will happen next.

Books often have cliffhangers and plot twists, much like the moment when your Uncle Larry brings up politics while passing the cornbread stuffing. The drama! The stakes in a book are probably higher, but they’re also slightly less impactful to your real life.

Five: The best part is usually at the end.

Don’t tell me you don’t eye the dessert tray (or table) before budgeting room in your stomach for the rest of the meal. it’s a smart practice. Similarly, the best books are great all the way through…but the real payoff is in those last several chapters.

Six: You finish feeling surprisingly full.

…and maybe a little lethargic. It’s a lot of content to take in, especially if you consume it all (book or Thanksgiving meal) in one sitting. But it’s a great feeling nonetheless. And you can always enjoy leftovers the next day—or re-read the book again.

What books are you thankful for this November, readers?

November 2019 New Releases

Our November new releases are finally here! Grab a warm beverage of choice and curl up with these page-turners in all different genres. There’s something for everyone in this list. (Don’t forget to check out the first chapter by clicking on the covers.)

When I Close My Eyes by Elizabeth Musser

Plot Summary: Famous author Josephine Bourdillon is in a coma, her memories surfacing as her body fights to survive. But those around her are facing their own battles: Henry Hughes, who agreed to kill her for hire out of desperation, is uncertain how to finish the job now, and her teenage daughter, Paige, is overwhelmed by fear. Can grace bring them all into the light?

 

A Pursuit of Home by Kristi Ann Hunter
Haven Manor #3

Plot Summary: When she learns the family she thought dead might be alive and in danger, Jess Beauchene knows her secrets can only stay buried for so long. Desperation brings her to Derek Thornbury, an expert in history and artifacts, to help her decipher the clues in an old family diary. Will their search to uncover the truth of the past lead to a future together?

 

When Silence Sings by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Plot Summary: After the rival McLean clan guns down his cousin, Colman Harpe chooses peace over seeking revenge with his family. But when he hears God tell him to preach to the McLeans, he attempts to run away—and fails—leaving him sick and suffering in their territory. He soon learns that appearances can be deceiving, and the face of evil doesn’t look like he expected.

 

The End of the Magi by Patrick W. Carr

 

Plot Summary: Fleeing for his life after his adoptive father is put to death by a ruthless Parthian queen, Myrad, a young magi acolyte, escapes the city. There he begins an epic journey filled with peril, close escapes, and dangerous battles. Over everything shines the dream of a star that Myrad can’t forget and the promise that the world will never be the same.

 

Serving Up Love by Tracie Peterson, Karen Witemeyer, Regina Jennings, and Jen Turano

Plot Summary: This intriguing novella collection crosses the country—from Kansas to Texas, the Grand Canyon to New Mexico—with tales of sweet romance while exploring the fascinating history of the Harvey girls: young women seeking adventure and independence who worked in hotels throughout the country from the early 1880s to the late 1920s.

 

Here’s a question for you, readers: how do you choose what book you’re going to read next?

Mountain Heroes: Guest Post with Misty Beller!

Today on the blog, historical romance author Misty Beller is here to talk about all things books and research and swoony heroes to celebrate the release of her latest novel, Hope’s Highest Mountain. Enjoy getting to know more about her and her writing style!

Amy: Thanks for joining us, Misty! What do you think makes a mountain-man hero who is loved by both readers and the heroine?

Misty: Ooo, this is a great question! When I’m writing a mountain man hero, I always wonder what it was that drove him into the wilderness to live by himself. Did a deep wound force him to want a life totally different than anything he was accustomed to? Or maybe he just loves the mountain country and craves adventure. The majestic grandeur of the Rockies has seeped into his soul and feeds his spirit like nothing else can. I think the best-loved mountain man is probably a combination of all of these! Micah Bradley from Hope’s Highest Mountain definitely fits that bill.

I imagine the ideal mountain man to be the strong, silent type—he would definitely have to be an introvert to be content living with minimal human interaction! And no matter how wounded (emotionally or otherwise), no matter how bitter from the scars of his past, his protective instincts have to be strong. He has to be willing to fight through any obstacle to protect those around him—especially the heroine!

Amy: Love it! Micah is a great example of that trait. Is there a fun historical fact you came across while researching Hope’s Highest Mountain that you’d like to share?

Misty: Hmm…I’m a history nerd, so every time I get to research, I find fun facts! Surprisingly, not everything I consider fun is a fun fact for “normal” people. For Hope’s Highest Mountain, I got to research so many things about smallpox, including what the disease looks like at each stage, the differences between smallpox and chicken pox, and the history of the vaccination (which included lots of milk maids and a few young children). As I was trying to choose which of these to share here, I decided it might be better to switch gears.

Let me tell you about puppies! Namely, the history of the cute little dog named Shadow who plays a starring role in the story. Shadow is a sweet little male Havanese, solid black and the runt of the litter. We also have two Havanese (in real life), so I’m pretty family with the current version of the breed.

I knew for the story to be accurate though, I would need to do some quick research on what the breed would have looked like back in the 1860s. They actually would have been called Bichons back then (not Bichon Frise, which is another breed that spun off from the original Bichons). For several centuries, they were bred on the island of Cuba, but vacationing Europeans discovered the dog there and helped spread the breed abroad. One of those sweet little puppies even made it all the way to the mountain wilderness of the Montana Territory! (wink)

Amy: I’m sure both the smallpox and the dog research were helpful as you wrote, but this is a good excuse for puppy pictures! Now, what do you most admire about early pioneers like the ones in your books?

Misty: The men and women who thrived on the frontier were amazing! They weren’t just living without modern conveniences and technology. They were living far from “civilization,” often far from family and church. Yet they built these strong lives, homes, marriages, families, and relationships with God. The challenges they faced made them stronger, developing them into people I respect wholeheartedly.

Amy: That’s such a great summary. And for those of you who’d like to hear Misty share more about her book, you can watch this short video!

So, readers, let’s talk heroes: what for you are the traits that make a fictional hero endearing or worth cheering for?

Christy Award Finalist Giveaway

Next month, it’s time for the Christy Awards in Nashville! You can see all of the fantastic finalists here, or on the Christy Awards Instagram account, but here at Bethany House, we like to celebrate upcoming awards with a giveaway of our finalists for readers who might not be able to walk down the red carpet and join the celebration. (Although you should come some year…it’s really fun!)

Here are the Bethany House award finalists and their books:

Falling for You by Becky Wade

Shelter of the Most High by Connilyn Cossette

A Defense of Honor by Kristi Ann Hunter

Mind Games by Nancy Mehl

The Christmas Heirloom – finalist novellas are A Shot at Love by Sarah Loudin Thomas and Legacy of Love by Kristi Ann Hunter

The Mark of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse

The Wounded Shadow by Patrick W. Carr

We’re giving away one of each of these books to our readers! Winners will be randomly chosen on Monday, October 28 and contacted via email.

To enter, just do two things: make sure you’ve followed this blog, and then comment with an answer to this question: if you could create a fake fiction award (like “Best Opening Line” or “Top Books with Dogs on the Cover”), what would it be?