Ask BHP: What Books Are You Excited About?

One reader asks, “Can you tell me some books/authors you’re really excited about and want to make sure everyone reads?”

Well, I already wrote a post about my favorite Bethany House book (spoiler: it was published in 1993), so long-time readers will know that I can’t pick among current authors. It would be way too hard.

But since “ALL our books” isn’t a long enough answer for a blog post, I’ll reply by saying that today, I’m especially excited about Bethany House books that were nominated for Christy and Carol Awards. The Carol Award winners will be announced this Saturday at the ACFW conference, and the Christy winners at an award ceremony in November, but to me, all of these titles are winners already.

Chances are you haven’t read all of these yet, so add them to your list—they’ve got a seal of approval from some pretty discerning judges (and me, of course).

True to You by Becky Wade

Plot Summary: After a broken engagement, genealogist Nora Bradford decides focusing on her work and her novels is safer than romance. But when John, a former Navy SEAL, hires her to help find his birth mother, the spark between them is undeniable. However, he’s dating someone, and Nora is hesitant. Is she ready to abandon her fictional heroes and risk her heart for real?

The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright

Plot Summary: Fleeing a stalker, Kaine Prescott purchases an old house sight unseen in Wisconsin, which turns out to have a dark history: a century earlier, an unidentified woman was found dead on the grounds. As Kaine tries to settle in, she learns the story of her ancestor Ivy Thorpe, who, with the help of a man from her past, tried to uncover the truth about the death.

A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden

Plot Summary: Telegraph operator Lucy Drake is a master of Morse code, but the presence of Sir Colin Beckwith at a rival news agency puts her livelihood at risk. When Colin’s reputation is jeopardized, Lucy agrees to help in exchange for his assistance in recovering her family’s stolen fortune. However, the web of treachery they’re diving into is more dangerous than they know.

A Plain Leaving by Leslie Gould

Plot Summary: Returning for her father’s funeral, Jessica faces the Amish life—and love—she left behind years prior. Struggling with regrets, she learns about the life of a Revolutionary War–era ancestor who confronted some of the same choices she has. Will Jessica find peace during her visit, along with the resolution she hopes for?

A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexander

Plot Summary: Despite her training as a master violinist, Rebekah Carrington was denied entry into the Nashville Philharmonic by young conductor Nathaniel Whitcomb, who bowed to public opinion. Now, with a reluctant muse and a recurring pain in his head, he needs her help to finish his symphony. But how can he win back her trust when he’s robbed her of her dream?

Heart on the Line by Karen Witemeyer

Plot Summary: Grace Mallory is tired of running. But when she learns that the villain who killed her father is closing in, she has no choice. Grace is waylaid, however, by Amos Bledsoe, who hopes to continue their telegraph courtship in person. With Grace’s life—and his heart—on the line, can Amos shed his shyness and become the hero she requires?

An Awakened Heart by Jody Hedlund – a free ebook novella!

Plot Summary: Longing to do more with her privileged life, Christine Pendelton begins volunteering at Centre Street Chapel. There she meets Guy Bedell, a pastor who shares her heart for the less fortunate. When Christine challenges Guy’s methods of helping, can they find a new way to reach out to the poor—and to connect with each other?

King’s Blood by Jill Williamson

Plot Summary: After the foretold destruction of the Five Realms, the remnant that escaped by sea searches for a new home. As the king’s health worsens, Sâr Wilek assumes command and struggles to rule the disjointed people, while assassination attempts and dark magic endanger his life. One prophecy has come to pass, but another looms in the future: Who is this Deliverer?

Okay, readers: out of the books above, how many have you read?

Books with Teacher Heroines

Since schools all around the country have started up this month, it seemed like a great time to share some of our recent books that feature teachers of the past. These heroines might have a more exciting life than a local educator you know (hopefully things like kidnappings, secret identities, and natural disasters aren’t terribly common at your school), but they share the same love: helping students learn.

Playing by Heart by Anne Mateer

Playing by Heart by Anne Mateer

Plot Summary:

Plot Summary: Determined to prove herself, Lula commits to a teaching job for a year, even though the subjects—music and basketball—are ones she looks down on as a mathematician. When she reluctantly turns to the boys’ coach, Chet, for help, she’ll learn more than she ever expected about life and love.

Undaunted Hope by Jody Hedlund

Plot Summary:

Plot Summary: When Tessa Taylor arrives in Eagle Harbor, Michigan, she is dismayed to learn there has been a mistake—the town requested a male teacher. Mercifully, they agree to let her stay temporarily. As she settles in to her new life, two brothers begin vying for her hand, but an unknown danger seems to haunt her steps. Clearly, someone doesn’t want her to stay.

A Bride at Last by Melissa Jagears

Plot Summary: Silas and Kate both harbor resentment over failed mail-order engagements. When a common interest in an orphaned student leads to an interest in each other, they begin to think they can overcome their rocky start. But neither is prepared for the secrets that have yet to come to light. Can they move beyond past hurts and find hope?

Holding the Fort by Regina Jennings

Plot Summary: When dance hall singer Louisa Bell visits Fort Reno to see her brother, she is mistaken for the tutor that the harried Major Daniel Adams is waiting for. Between his rowdy troops and his two daughters, he has more responsibility than he can handle alone. Eager for the opportunity, Louisa sets out to show the widower that she is a perfect fit.

The Tutor’s Daughter by Julie Klassen

Plot Summary: Emma Smallwood and her father have come to the Cornish coast to tutor the youngest sons of a baronet—but all is not as it seems. When mysterious things begin to happen and danger mounts, can she figure out which brother to blame…and which to trust with her heart?

A Worthy Pursuit by Karen Witemeyer

Plot Summary: When a wealthy railroad investor hires him to find his abducted granddaughter, legendary tracker Stone eagerly accepts the job. But instead of a hardened criminal, he finds Charlotte, a teacher on the run determined to protected the child in her care. Will Charlotte and Stone decide to trust each other before they both lose what they hold most dear?

Where Courage Calls by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan

Plot Summary: Inspired by her aunt Elizabeth, Beth Thatcher has accepted a teaching position in the rugged foothills of Canada. She resolves to put her trust in God and bravely face any challenge that comes her way. But the conditions in Coal Valley are worse than she’d feared. She is determined to make a difference…but how long can she last on the western frontier?   And to celebrate teachers, how about a giveaway? To enter, just comment below with the name of a favorite teacher and what you appreciated about him or her. I’ll chose three winners on Monday, September 17 to receive their choice of book from this list…and another to give to a friend or family member who teaches.

September 2018 New Releases

In this month’s round of new releases, you’ll find espionage, revival meetings, natural disasters, and plenty of dangerous secrets. Whether you prefer a romantic read or page-turning suspense, there’s something here for you. Click on a cover that catches your eye to read an excerpt, and enjoy a fall filled with great books!

The First Love by Beverly Lewis

Plot Summary: In the summer of 1951, Amishwoman Maggie Esh is struggling with a debilitating illness and few future prospects. When tent revival meetings come to the area, Maggie attends out of curiosity. She’s been told to accept her lot in life as God’s will, but the words of the evangelist begin to stir something deep inside her. Dare she hope for a brighter future?

An Hour Unspent by Roseanna M. White

Plot Summary: As England plunges into war, Barclay Pearce uses his skills as a thief to help his nation. But upon rescuing Evelina Manning from a mugging, he begins to wonder what his future might hold. When her father’s invention gives England a military edge, the whole family is in danger—and it may just take a reformed thief to steal the time they need to escape it.

In Times Gone By by Tracie Peterson

Plot Summary: After getting left at the altar, Kenzie Gifford flees to San Francisco, determined to never love again. But when an earthquake devastates the city and the life she’s built there, Kenzie finds herself facing a hidden danger—and two men set on winning her heart. With her life—and heart—on the line, who can she trust?

The Cost of Betrayal by Dee Henderson, Dani Pettrey, and Lynette Eason

Plot Summary: Three bestselling Christian romantic suspense authors team up in this intense novella collection. In Henderson’s Betrayed, a woman cleared of a murder she didn’t commit faces another deadly betrayal. In Pettrey’s Deadly Isle, a couple is trapped on an island with a murderer. And in Eason’s Code of Ethics, two people must outrun the killers hunting them.

Readers, we want to know: for you, what is something a novel has to have to move you from “I liked it” to “I LOVED it”?

Prayer for Authors: September 2018

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 September:

Lynette Eason
Dee Henderson
Beverly Lewis
Tracie Peterson
Dani Pettrey
Roseanna M. White

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.

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”—Isaiah 26:3 (ESV)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For peace when considering new or current career challenges or opportunities.
  • For experiences and connections that will be helpful when writing their next project.
  • For readers to find hope in the pages of books releasing this month.

As this new month begins, we want to say again that we always appreciate having such a great group of readers join us in this time of prayer. Thank you!

 

Summer Reading Giveaway

Since this August has a fifth Thursday, we thought it would be fun to shake up the blogging schedule and include a giveaway! As the lazy vacation days of summer slowly end, you might have to be more creative about finding a good place to sneak a few pages of your latest novel, but thankfully, reading is a year-round hobby.

We’d like to give away three prize package of all four of our August releases. There are three ways you can enter to win.

On Tuesday, September 4, we’ll pick one winner from our list of blog followers (enter your email in the sidebar to the left if you haven’t already)…

One from our Instagram subscribers

And one from the comments on this post, answering the question, “What is a great book you read this summer?”

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy your Labor Day weekend, and maybe sneak a little reading time in as well.

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?

Ask BHP: How do Authors Make Characters Unique?

This month’s question from our Ask BHP mailbag has to do with the process of writing a book. A reader asks, “When authors are planning characters, how do they make sure that their leads feel like individuals? Put another way, what methods do authors use to keep their protagonists distinct, especially if they’ve written lots of books?”

Clearly, this is not one that I’d be able to answer as a marketing employee, so I went to authors of our August releases. Combined, they have written over 90 novels and novellas, which means they have experience with a lot of characters. Here’s how each of them approaches the process of making their lead roles stand out.

Jen Turano: When I’m plotting out a series, I only have a smidgen of an idea who the characters truly want to be. It’s not until I start writing the story that their character traits really come out, and that happens when I settle on what their quirk might be. For example, Mr. Harrison Sinclair is colorblind. Well, that right there led to all sorts of amusing scenes because he’s just a hot mess when it comes to fashion. And then take Miss Temperance Flowerdew. When I started the Apart from the Crowd series, she was incredibly timid, so much so that she rarely spoke. However, but the time I got around to writing her story in Caught by Surprise, she’d changed into this outspoken, adventure-seeking heroine. I hadn’t planned on her turning into that, she simply wouldn’t cooperate as a timid sort, so, as I do with every book, I just let her have her way.

Ronie Kendig: Characterization is one of the most vital steps to drawing compelling, unique characters. When I go into a book or new series, I make sure I’ve spent dozens of hours exploring who that character is, what has formed them as an individual, and what they want out of life. Then I upend all that with the plot. Ultimately, the “skeleton” I use to flesh out a hero might be the same (they may all be a Messiah archetype for example), but his background, his heritage, his wounds and goals will be unique to him. I mean, after all, most of us out there can fit into one of a handful or two of basic personality types, but our experiences, our lives, make us unique. The same is true of characters in a book.

Leslie Gould: In my mind, my characters are as distinct as my family and friends, but I do put a lot of thought into their development so that they’ll feel like originals to my readers too. I do online personality tests for my characters, map out their major life experiences, and carefully choose physical appearances and mannerisms that don’t duplicate past characters I’ve created. Once I know their basic characteristics, I can figure out their wounds, goals, and motivations. By that point, they’ve come alive to me and are on their way to being characters my readers will love too!

Judith Miller: When I begin a new book, I “interview” my main characters, and as I come to know them and what has influenced them throughout their lives, I discover more of their personality and what makes them distinct. I think we must go beyond eye and hair color. For instance, I may have a female character who is very flamboyant, but as the reader gets to know her, they discover she’s using her flashy behavior to hide her insecurity or self-loathing. Of course, I do enjoy physical descriptions that are a little unique, as well. For instance, a male character who is thought to be good-looking except for his clumsy gait. I think the key is knowing your character and what makes him/her tick.

Great answers! Okay, readers, describe a quirk, habit, or hobby of someone you know that would be perfect for a fictional character.

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.

Prayer for Authors: August 2018

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 August:

Leslie Gould
Ronie Kendig
Judith Miller
Jen Turano

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.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.“—Col. 3:15 (NIV)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For renewed a sense of peace about future decisions, writing-related or otherwise.
  • For opportunities to share the message of their books with others.
  • For those who recommend books to readers, especially librarians or booksellers, to know who might need a message of hope.

Knowing that so many of you come to these posts each month to pray for our authors is a real encouragement to me…and to them. Keep it up!

 

August 2018 New Releases!

Welcome to another month of beautiful covers and page-turning stories. And my, do we have a variety of genres this time! One glimpse at the cover will tell readers the kind of story that’s inside, but while the settings, characters, and plot points inside are vastly different, we know that you’ll enjoy all of them. To start reading, click on each cover for an excerpt.

Thirst of Steel by Ronie Kendig

Summary: Tox Russell must complete his final mission before he can begin his life with Haven Cortes: retrieve the ancient sword of Goliath and destroy the Arrow & Flame Order. The AFO is determined to have the sword, and they are blackmailing part of the Wraith team to do it. Will Ram’s secret be exposed before its ramifications tear the team apart?

 

The Lady of Tarpon Springs by Judith Miller

Summary: Zanna Krykos eagerly takes on her friend’s sponging business as a way to use her legal skills and avoid her family’s matchmaking. But the newly arrived Greek divers, led by Nico Kalos, mistrust a boss who knows nothing about the trade. Yet they must work together to rise above adversity after the mysterious death of a diver and the rumor of sunken treasure.

 

A Simple Singing by Leslie Gould

Summary: Marie Bachmann has always been the good Amish daughter. But when two men, a Mennonite farmhand and a bishop’s rebellious son, show interest in her, she finds herself at a crossroads. On a journey to Florida and back, she grapples with her heart, finding inspiration and hope for the future in the story of a brave Civil War–era ancestor.

 

Caught by Surprise by Jen Turano

Summary: Temperance Flowerdew is on her way to work when she is abducted and put onto a Chicago-bound train. When Gilbert Cavendish is called to play the hero, he has no idea that the damsel in distress is his friend. Temperance is grateful for the rescue but unwilling to give up her newfound independence—not even to save her reputation. But will she do it for love?

Here’s a fun question for you, readers: take a look at how the title is arranged on each book (the font, additional graphics, logo). What does it tell you about what the book will be like?