Novellas and Harper’s Station with Karen Witemeyer!

I have the lovely Karen Witemeyer with me today to chat about her latest series! The setting is an unusual one: an all-women’s colony in rural Texas called Harper’s Station. No Other Will Do and the upcoming Heart on the Line are full-length novels in the series, but this month, Worth the Wait released, a novella-length romance of fiery general store owner Victoria Adams.

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I asked Karen to share more about the story and her writing process for it with our blog readers.

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Amy: What’s the hardest part of writing a novella? The most fun part?

Karen: The hardest part is also the most fun. Fitting a complete story into a word count that is one-fourth of a standard novel is a challenge, but it is also what makes it so much fun because I get the satisfaction of reaching The End in a quarter of the time! By necessity, I keep things simple and focus on the main story line. With Worth the Wait, the entire novella actually takes place in a single day—the pivotal day that transitions a platonic business relationship into one of romantic courtship. Secret revelations, life-threatening accidents, and little boys with adopted puppies all play a role in bringing Tori and Ben together.

Amy: I hear readers had a role in helping give you idea for the novella. How did that come about?

Karen: Because I’m a rather slow writer, I have very little wiggle room between deadlines. So, as soon as I turn in one manuscript, I must immediately start on the next. Usually, I try to have an idea of the main plot points before I begin, but with Worth the Wait, I was missing several key pieces. My tired brain could only come up with ideas that I’d already used in previous stories. I needed something fresh, but my creative well was dry. So I turned to my readers. I wrote a blog post on August 20, 2015 asking for help. I gave the background of the main characters, then opened it up for brainstorming. Comments poured in and sparked my creativity. There were four ideas in particular that helped shape my final plot. In thanks, I dedicated the novella to the four people who left those comments. Love my readers!

Amy: I saw that original post and thought that was a great idea. Hooray for brainstorming! So, about your main characters. If Tori and Ben had a day entirely to themselves with no obligations, how would they spend it?

Karen: I picture them having a quiet picnic down by the river. Ben teaches Lewis to fish while Tori lays out the blanket and food. After eating, the adults will laze around, cuddling on the blanket while Lewis romps with his pup. When they eventually get back to the store, Tori will put her son to bed then retire to the porch with Ben. They’ll snuggle up together on the bench outside the store—him with his coffee, her with a cup of chamomile tea—and they’ll talk of the future as Ben’s large hand comes to rest on Tori’s rounded belly.

Amy: Do you have any pictures of what you imagine Harper’s Station or Tori’s store to look like?

Karen: Tori’s store isn’t large, since Harper’s Station itself is such a small community. But since it’s the only store, it is filled with a large variety of items. I found a few pictures that fit fairly well with what I had imagined.

store1

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How fun! Thanks so much for joining us, Karen! If you’d like to find out more about how Ben was able to win the headstrong general store owner’s heart, check out Worth the Wait.

Readers, what are some interesting elements (plot, character, setting) that you’ve always wanted to see in a novel? Maybe one of our authors will use your comment as inspiration for a future story!

Ask BHP: What Should Authors Post on Social Media?

Welcome to our monthly Ask BHP series. Here’s a fun question: “As a marketing person, do you ever advise authors on what not to post from their author pages on Facebook, especially on controversial issues? I’d be interested to hear what you think is wise for authors to say online.”

I often see agents writing blog posts on this topic, since they’re very focused on the authors’ careers and the choices they make that can alienate readers, but that’s not really my role. Occasionally one of our authors will run something by me and say, “What do you think about this?” And at that point, I give my honest opinion. But otherwise, I don’t like to meddle in what our authors are doing, because it’s up to them to use their own best judgment.

That said, here’s a good principle for Christian authors when considering what to say on the Internet (or, hey, Christians in general).

It comes from a Bethany House potluck.

chili

We recently had a chili cookoff, complete with miniature testing cups, fancy voting scorecards with different categories, and fabulous prizes. I’m not much of a chili person, so I decided not to enter and made bread instead. (Don’t overestimate me as a chef—bread is one of the few things I can consistently make well.)

As I sat there trying my fourth sample of chili, I had a revelation: there are two ways to win a chili cookoff.

The first is to be the best at making chili among several tough competitors.

The second is to be the only one who brought homemade yeast rolls.

If you aren’t seeing parallels between that and social media posts, here’s how it relates: there are two ways to win the Internet.

The first is to be the best at the contest everyone else is having—shouting the loudest, posting the most articles, responding to comments that disagree with you with the best arguments and shutting everyone else down.

The second is to be the only one entering a different contest. Continue reading

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.)

Prayer for Authors February 2017

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 February:

Tamera Alexander
Julianna Deering
Dani Pettrey
Jill Williamson

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.

But as for me, I will sing about your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress.–Psalm 59:16 (NLT)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For the ability to prioritize time with friends and family members during a busy season, and to know what to say no to.
  • For unexpected acts of encouragement or help that can only be credited to God’s work.
  • For readers to think about their faith differently after reading these books.

It’s always delightful to know that there are others joining me in praying for these authors, so thank you for stopping by the blog today!

Meet Our February 2017 New Releases!

Technically, these are January books because they released on the 31st of January, but we’re celebrating them this month. Between their pages you’ll find murder and music and mystery and everything in between! Just for fun, I’m sharing a fun fact about each title so you have the inside scoop. To read an excerpt of each novel and see if it’s a good fit for you, just click on the cover!

King’s Blood by Jill Williamson

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Quick Look: 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?

Behind-the-Scenes Trivia: This is officially the longest novel Bethany House has ever published! (At least until Book Three releases…)

A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexander

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Quick Look: 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?

Behind-the-Scenes Trivia: The Stradivarius violin in the novel that is (fictionally) owned by Adelicia Cheatham, is currently owned in real life by violinist Anne Akiko Meyes. Tamera listened to her music often while writing.

Still Life by Dani Pettrey

still-life

Quick Look: Work hits too close to home for crime scene photographer Avery Tate when her best friend disappears. The only lead is a chilling photo of her—apparently dead. As Avery, her ex-boss Parker, and his friends in law enforcement dig into the case, she’s forced to confront her feelings for Parker when they come face-to-face with a dangerous criminal.

Behind-the-Scenes Trivia: Many of the locations in the story can be found in real-life Baltimore, including the Fells Point neighborhood, a favorite of the Pettrey family.

Murder on the Moor by Julianna Deering

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Quick Look: When mysterious incidents begin occurring on a moor in Yorkshire, an old friend begs Drew for help. At first it seems to be simply bad luck—fires started, livestock scattered—but then the vicar is murdered. As danger closes in, Drew and Madeline must determine what’s really going on and find the killer before it’s too late.

Behind-the-Scenes Trivia: Julianna insists that Aidan Turner, star of Poldark, looks just like her character (and mystery suspect) Rhys Delwyn. Imagine that!

Since Valentine’s Day is coming up, what’s the best romantic novel you’ve read in a while?

Ask BHP: What Do You Think About Libraries?

Another year, another series of monthly Ask BHP posts! We got some great ones in our survey (feel free to add more anytime), and here’s our first: “Since libraries provide books to people for free, are libraries a benefit or detriment for authors and publishers?”

Almost every publishing employee and author you meet sincerely loves libraries. This is not just a line we use when speaking to a crowd of librarians, or a crowd that might possibly contain a librarian, or a crowd where someone might quote us to a librarian friend of theirs. We really mean it.

Now, we might be slightly biased, since authors and publishing employees are devoted “book people” who often practically grew up in a library. Objectively, though, libraries are helpful to publishers. Here are a few reasons why.

One of my favorite library-related cartoons ever.

One of my favorite library-related cartoons ever.

First, libraries buy books. They have a budget set aside for that purpose. Your tax dollars at work, making the public literate, exposing people to great works of literature and fun pieces of entertainment, and keeping kids off the streets and safely tucked inside adventure novels for days at a time (or was that just me?). Even when the economy is down and bookstores decline, libraries stay fairly constant in the amount of money they send our way.

That said, certain authors/series/genres do tend to do better in libraries than others. Sometimes the reason is easily discernible, sometimes it’s a mystery. Overall, though, the sales groups that handle library orders show up in our top customers all the time.

Second, libraries introduce people to authors. As I think through my personal shelves, many of the books there were ones I first checked out of the library. Recommendations from friends are all well and good, but I am a choosy reader. I prefer to read before I buy…but I do buy. Like me, many readers will buy an author’s book or entire backlist after finding a book they love at the library.

As for the most voracious patrons whose library cards have long faded due to over-use and who never purchase an actual book for themselves…if the library wasn’t there, maybe they’d buy more books. Or maybe they’d borrow from friends or buy used or whatever. There’s nothing wrong with any of those options. It’s just to say that there’s no evidence that library usage corresponds to a loss of potential sales.

Third, libraries contribute to a general love of books. That seems vague, but hear me out. Libraries teach children to be readers, so they’ll grow up to contribute to book sales when they’re older. They also host book signing events and author chats, sponsor book clubs, recommend and display their favorite novels, a provide a space for readers to pursue the best hobby around…all of which tends to lead to more sales for us.

And if that went from “vague” to “money-grabbing” for you, just a reminder that even publisher—and even people on the marketing “dark side” of publishers—do love books. That’s why we’re here. And while there are bottom-line reasons we’re glad libraries stay in business, mostly, we just can’t imagine life without them.

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So, if you’re a librarian, here’s a heartfelt thanks for all you do! Keep supporting books, readers, and authors. And if you’re a reader, don’t forget to request your favorite authors from your local library (even if you already own the books) so others can enjoy them.

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

A Wallflower Ball: Fun with Jen Turano!

Great news, readers! (Any sentence involving “free” and “books” gets my attention, anyway.)

Jen Turano’s new Apart From the Crowd series, following a group of wallflowers in their adventures in New York society, launches this month with a free ebook novella!

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You can download it from your favorite ebook retailer (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, CBD).

To celebrate, I asked Jen if she’d take us into the world of her characters during one of the Gilded Age social events where everyone wanted an invitation: a ball at the Astor House.

And here it is, one of the most ostentatious mansions New York has ever seen:

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Inside, the atmosphere would be charged with rumors and romance and possibly a bit of danger and intrigue. It might look something like this:

ballroom

Of course, dinner would be served. Here is a typical menu from the Gilded Age:

First Course
Julienne or Vermicelli Soup

Second Course
Broiled Salmon
Turbot in Lobster Sauce
Filet de Soles
Red Mullet
Trout
Lobster Rissoles

Entrees
Canards a la Rouennaise
Mutton Cutlets
Braised Beef
Spring Chicken
Roast Quarter of Lamb
Tongue
Roast Saddle of Mutton
Whitebait

Third Course
Quails
Roast Duck
Mayonnaise of Chicken
Green Peas
Charlotte Russe
Strawberries
Compote of Cherries
Neapolitan Cakes
Madiera Wine

Or you could take a walk outside, perhaps down to Central Park for some ice skating:

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This might be what Wilhelmina looked like bundled up for a wintery afternoon outdoors:

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And here’s a typical gown like her friend Permilia might have worn to the ball:

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Speaking of gorgeous dresses, take a look at the one on the cover of Jen’s upcoming release, Behind the Scenes! (Doesn’t it remind you of the research photo above that Jen sent to our designers?)

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There’s an extended excerpt of the first book in the series within the ebook novella of At Your Request, so you can get started on it before anyone else.

To keep the fun going, we’re going to give away two copies of Behind the Scenes! To enter, comment on this post with the answer to one, or all, of these questions: If you were attending a Gilded Age ball, what color would your dress be? Which foods on the menu look most and least appetizing? Would you give ice skating a try?

Winners will be listed in next week’s blog post on January 19. (If you are an international reader, you can still enter, but I will substitute the book with an Amazon egift card because of the cost of shipping.)

January 2017 New Releases…and a Quiz

Welcome to a new year and the “book birthdays” of several great titles! For something a little different, I’ve made up a quiz to match you to one of our January new releases. From rugged and dangerous to relaxing and quaint, the settings of our January books are sure to break you out of your ordinary routine. Let us know what result you got! And, as usual click on the book covers below to start reading an excerpt.

quiz

Amish Weddings

by Leslie Gould

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Plot: Rose Lehman has always known who she wants to marry: the bishop’s son, Reuben Byler. But then Trevor, the handsome Army buddy of her future brother-in-law, visits Lancaster County, and Reuben starts to seem dull by comparison. When the thrill of adventure begins to fade, will Rose find happiness—or ruin her best chance at love?

The Mark of the King

by Jocelyn Green

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Plot: After being unjustly imprisoned for the death of her client, midwife Julianne Chevalier trades her life sentence for exile to the French colony of Louisiana in 1720. She marries a fellow convict in order to sail, but when tragedy strikes—and a mystery unfolds—Julianne must find her own way in this dangerous new land while bearing the brand of a criminal.

An Uncommon Courtship

by Kristi Ann Hunter

an-uncommon-courtship

Plot: After a night trapped together in an old stone keep, Lady Adelaide Bell and Lord Trent Hawthorne have no choice but to marry. Dismayed, Adelaide finds herself bound to a man who ignores her, as Trent has no desire to connect with the one who dashed his plans to marry for love. Can they set aside their first impressions before any chance of love is lost?

In the Shadow of Denali

by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse

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Plot: Cassidy Ivanoff and her father, John, a wilderness guide, work at a prestigious new hotel outside Mt. McKinley. John’s new apprentice, Allan Brennan, finds a friend in Cassidy, but the real reason he’s here—to learn the truth about his father’s death—is far more dangerous than he knows.

Prayer for Authors: January 2017

Happy New Year! 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 January:

Jocelyn Green
Leslie Gould
Kristi Ann Hunter
Tracie Peterson
Kimberley Woodhouse

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.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’–Revelation 21:4-5 (NIV)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For a renewed sense of purpose and energy to accomplish writing and marketing tasks.
  • For readers who will pick up these books to be blessed by the messages they contain.
  • For patience when work is hard, ideas don’t seem to come, or a season of waiting seems like it will never end.

On this first day of the new year, I especially appreciate you taking a few moments to pray for our January authors, and I know they do as well. Many blessings on you in 2017!