Posts Tagged ‘Christian Fiction’

Christian Fiction Winners

Recently a customer asked why we had run the list of Christy Award winners in our store newsletter in previous years, but had not done so last November. I didn’t realize that our customers were tracking these things so closely. So I included it on Monday, and having typed it all up, thought we’d run it here as well.

Although several of the winners were from the broad Baker Book Group imprints, they weren’t titles we’ve carried. (She ordered one of each, so the award carries some weight in her mind.) What it reinforces to me is that critic awards are not the same as sales rankings. Not at all. And some great books get missed because as buyers, we tend to focus on the “A list” titles.

How many of these do you carry? If you’re going to expand your fiction section, better to start with titles which have at least won critical acclaim.

Book of the Year – The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery – Amanda Cox – Revell

Amplify Award – In Search of a Prince – Toni Shiloh – Bethany House

Contemporary Romance – All That Really Matters – Nicole Deese – Bethany House

First Novel – All That Is Secret – Patricia Raybon – Tyndale

General Fiction – the winner in this category also won book of the year (above)

Historical – Drawn By the Current – Jocelyn Green – Bethany House

Historical Romance – Until Leaves Fall In Paris – Sarah Sundin – Revell 

Mystery/Suspense – Aftermath – Terri Blackstock – Thomas Nelson 

Short form – Under the Texas Mistletoe – Karen Witemeyer – Bethany House 

Speculative (science fiction) – Windward Shore – Shannon Hinck – Enclave Publishing

Young Adult – Shadow – Kara Swanson – Enclave Publishing

The awards are presented through the Evangelical Christian Publishing Association (ECPA) and the full list, including nominees, and including cover images, can be seen at this link.

Books of the Year

December is the month when Christian media confers awards of all types on Christian books. The choices are made by reviewers who inhabit an entirely different reading universe than both pastors and Christian retailers, tending to choose esoteric titles, and it’s probable that many of their selections are not available for sale in your store.

For example, check out the Fiction winners in the Christianity Today list, and the tied winner and the named finalist are both from publishers with which I am personally unfamiliar. Ingram lists 699 titles for She Writes Press, but Bookmanager confirms no designated Canadian distributor. One Bird Books has only two listed titles and they are short-discount.

CT has no such issues with the titles it recommends, simply providing Amazon links for all winning books.

At Englewood Review of Books, there’s no year-end list, but you see that same gathering of eclectic titles so popular with online reviewers. The write-ups are always engaging and believe me, if a store could toss economic considerations to the wind, some of these books deserve to be must-carry titles. It’s a question of finding the right audience.

The list at the Evangelical Christian Publisher’s Association (ECPA) is a reminder to look before you leap when consulting these lists, as their 2021 awards are actually for books published in 2020 or, as in a surprising number of cases, 2019. The list you want is the 2022 list, and CT designates its lists the same way. It’s list takes longer to materialize and doesn’t appear until May, and considers “titles published between October 2020 and October 2021.” Last year’s winner was Be the Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation, (WaterBrook) by Latasha Morrison. Again, not a title you may have carried, and probably more U.S. interest than Canadian.

Oddly, it was at ECPA’s news page, Rush to Press, that I learned that Prayer in the Night by Tish Harrison Warren was CTs Book of the Year.  So I went back to the CT winners list and sure enough, at the very bottom there is something that says, “Beautiful Orthodoxy Book of the Year,” so I suppose there’s more to that header that one needs to know. The author is certainly deserving, especially after having her previous title hijacked by book pirates at Amazon, but hopefully IVP will eventually bring out a paperback for Prayers in the Night, at the very least for the international market, as some stewardship-minded consumers are still holding out.

Whether you’re a fan or not, you have to credit The Gospel Coalition for at least naming their awards in the correct year. Unless you’re in a strong Reformed market, you still may not have many of these, and the considered titles are going to be theologically narrower, but if there is a customer request, they are at least from publishers and distributors with whom you work closely.

Finally, for fiction lovers, The Christy Awards winners were announced at the end of October with a contemporary title, The Edge of Belonging by Amanda Cox (Revell) taking top honours. Click the list for yourself and you’ll see an absence of Amish titles, and the fiction that I call “futuristic” (which we classify as subset of “suspense” and “mystery”) they call “speculative.” Isn’t all fiction somewhat speculative?

Toronto Author Blends Historical Fiction with Romance

After a series of murder mysteries with Harvest House (The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder, A Lesson in Love & Murder) and a similar series with Thomas Nelson (Murder at the Flamingo, Murder in the City of Liberty) Toronto author Rachel McMillan has decided to tackle some stories which don’t have murder in the title. The London Restoration released late summer with Thomas Nelson.

On her website she writes,

I am also delighted to be writing historical romance set amidst the beautiful architecture of London and Vienna in the post-war years. The London Restoration releases in Fall 2020 and introduces readers to the gorgeous Christopher Wren churches blitzed during the War as well as the enigmatic codes of Bletchley Park.

Enjoying the relationship with Nelson’s parent HarperCollins means that she works with their general market promotion and publicity team on interviews and in-store events which works because she says, “the spiritual aspects of my books are a tad more subtle.” So she might turn up at a mainstream bookstore as she is in my town, albeit a Facebook virtual event in these challenging times for authors.

The Canadian connection might be more overt depending on the series. She notes that, “My first series with Harvest House is set in Edwardian Era Toronto and features a female Sherlock Holmes character and my first series with Harper Collins featured a young lawyer from Toronto who moves to Boston. When possible, I love to include a Canadian component to my work.”

The London Restoration‘s page at Thomas Nelson describes the book in detail:

The secrets that might save a nation could shatter a marriage.

Madly in love, Diana Foyle and Brent Somerville married in London as the bombs of World War II dropped on their beloved city. Without time for a honeymoon, the couple spent the next four years apart. Diana, an architectural historian, took a top-secret intelligence post at Bletchley Park. Brent, a professor of theology at King’s College, believed his wife was working for the Foreign Office as a translator when he was injured in an attack on the European front.

Now that the war is over, the Somervilles’ long-anticipated reunion is strained by everything they cannot speak of. Diana’s extensive knowledge of London’s churches could help bring down a Russian agent named Eternity. She’s eager to help MI6 thwart Communist efforts to start a new war, but because of the Official Secrets Act, Diana can’t tell Brent the truth about her work.

Determined to save their marriage and rebuild the city they call home, Diana and Brent’s love is put to the ultimate test as they navigate the rubble of war and the ruins of broken trust.

Her website bio begins,

There is nothing better than exploring the world –near and far: whether with a notebook and passport at the ready or in the pages of a book.

so it’s not surprising she’s also authored a travel guide. Dream, Plan, and Go: A Travel Guide to Inspire Your Independent Adventure was released in hardcover last year by Harvest House. 

Although she calls Toronto home, she grew up in Orillia, Ontario where she worked for the local bookstore, as she told Orillia Matters:

She worked for a year at Manticore Books in downtown Orillia, when it was owned by Don Ross. That was more than a decade ago, but she is still inspired by Ross and often thinks about the long chats they had about books and history.

“When I’m writing, I still think, ‘I hope Don Ross likes this,’” she said.

Reading The London Restoration need not be a solo experience either. Last month, Rachel reported on Facebook that a discussion kit is now available for book clubs and she offered to do a virtual meeting with club members to add to their discussion.

Her next historical romance, The Mozart Code releases May, 2021.

Brampton, Ontario Author Launches New Fiction Series

I’d seen Susan Anne Mason‘s titles before, but didn’t realize the Bethany House author was a resident of the GTA, Brampton to be specific. She wrote the 3-part Courage to Dream series and also — what should have been the giveaway — the 3-part Canadian Crossings Series. These are both Historical Fiction, though she has a previous Contemporary series with White Rose Books, a division of Pelican which is part of Penguin Random House..

Her newest, A Haven for Her Heart, launches a new Historical Fiction series, Redemption’s Light. As you can see in the publisher description from Bethany House, there’s a Toronto element to this story:

Haunted by painful memories, Olivia Rosetti is singularly focused on running her maternity home for troubled women. Darius Reed is determined to protect his daughter from the prejudice that killed his wife by marrying a society darling. But when he’s suddenly drawn to Olivia, they will learn if love can prove stronger than the secrets and hurts of the past.

Homeless after being released from a women’s reformatory in 1939 Toronto, Olivia Rosetti is taken in by an angel of mercy, Ruth Bennington. The two discover they share a painful past and together decide to open a maternity home for troubled women.

Despite the success of the home, Olivia is haunted by her inhumane treatment at the reformatory and the way her newborn son was taken from her. She feels undeserving of love–until she meets businessman Darius Reed. Although his attention makes her heart soar, he can never learn of her past.

Greek widower Darius Reed is determined to protect his daughter from the prejudice that killed her mother. He’ll ensure her future by marrying a woman from a respected Toronto family. But when Darius meets Olivia, he’s immediately drawn to her beauty and compassion…

The book releases Tuesday, October 13th. Publisher’s Weekly said they expect the book to appeal to fans of Julie Klassen. I love that when not composing fiction, Susan is busy writing the bulletin at a local Anglican church where she is a part-time secretary (her words) or to be more accurate, the Parish Administrator.

 384 pages, paper | 19.99 (Parasource) | ISBN-13: 9780764235191

Book Review: The Baggage Handler

I am reviewing a fiction title for the first time in many years.

The Baggage Handler actually released a few weeks ago. I had read the book in February, but never wrote anything at the time because it wasn’t releasing until March 26th. Then, that date simply flew by unnoticed.

Michael, David and Gillian all pass through the airport on the same day and no, they don’t end up with each other’s luggage. But there is a luggage mix-up to be sure, with varying degrees of consequences. There is a baggage handler, who seems to work two locations at once; the airport itself and the downtown lost-luggage facility.

And the key to the story is in that word baggage. Don’t think luggage or suitcases, rather this is all about the metaphorical baggage we all carry around, a moment of discovery for all three characters in the story when they try to retrieve their belongings.

Not surprisingly then, author David Rawlings describes himself as a writer of “stories for those who want to dive deeper.” (His follow-up, releasing in December is about a couples’ counsellor.)

It must be said that both the cover design and the decision to release the first edition in hardcover leaves the book bearing a striking similarity to similar titles by David Gregory; Dinner with a Perfect Stranger, A Day with a Perfect Stranger, etc. These titles, as well as similar ones by Andy Andrews, ask us to temporarily suspend belief as to plausibility and accept certain plot contrivances in order to learn a greater lesson.

Bouncing back and forth between the three central characters means the book moves along at good pace, and for those who want to “dive deeper” in a book club setting or even on a personal level, there is a short collection of discussion questions breaking the book into five sections.

My personal disappointment with the book was that as a longtime reader of Christian books in general, I kept waiting for God to show up. Somewhere. On a single page, perhaps.

There’s no real definition for what makes Christian fiction and I suppose that on the spectrum of books that preach and books ‘written from a Christian perspective;’ this one is in the latter category. At least I hope so. 

On the other hand, as someone with much exposure to both Andy Andrews and David Gregory, I see the value in this novel, and already recommended it to someone. 

We all have things in our past we need to deal with.

When Art Imitates Life

or…When the Books We Sell Echo Store Life

This book is releasing mid-May from Thomas Nelson. This is Katherine Reay’s sixth book with Thomas Nelson. Perhaps some of you reading today “inherited” your store one way or another!

From the publisher website:

The Printed Letter Bookshop
By: Katherine Reay

One of Madeline Cullen’s happiest childhood memories is of working with her Aunt Maddie in the quaint and cozy Printed Letter Bookshop. But by the time Madeline inherits the shop nearly twenty years later, family troubles and her own bitter losses have hardened Madeline’s heart toward her once-treasured aunt—and the now struggling bookshop left in her care.

While Madeline intends to sell the shop as quickly as possible, the Printed Letter’s two employees have other ideas. Reeling from a recent divorce, Janet finds sanctuary within the books and within the decadent window displays she creates. Claire, though quieter than the acerbic Janet, feels equally drawn to the daily rhythms of the shop and its loyal clientele, finding a renewed purpose within its walls. When Madeline’s professional life takes an unexpected turn, and when a handsome gardener upends all her preconceived notions, she questions her plans and her heart. She begins to envision a new path for herself and for her aunt’s beloved shop—provided the women’s best combined efforts are not too little, too late.

The Printed Letter Bookshop is a captivating story of good books, a testament to the beauty of new beginnings, and a sweet reminder of the power of friendship.

336 pages | 9780785222002

2018 Book Award Winning Manuscript Was Abandoned in 1995; Winning as Fiction, Story is Quite Real

On the weekend, Michael Bell, one of the writers at Internet Monk shared the story behind the just-released book In His Majesty’s Secret Service written by his younger brother, Patrick. First here’s what Michael wrote at iMonk:

A little over thirty years ago my younger brother, Patrick Bell, left on an adventure. He joined Greg, his best friend from high school, on a clandestine team smuggling bibles behind the Iron Curtain. For two years they crisscrossed Eastern Europe bringing Bibles, medicines, and food to Christians who faced persecution and even death because of their faith.

They took ten trips into Romania, where Christians were having a particularly difficult time under President Nicolae Ceaușescu. It was also very stressful for the smuggling teams. “When you hear gunfire outside your hotel and there are bullet holes in the window and blood on the carpet, you know you’re in the thick of things.” A network of informers meant that they could never be sure who they could trust.

In his downtime he started writing about what he was experiencing. He wrote in the genre of a historical fiction, with himself and Greg being portrayed as two of the main characters in the book.

His letters from their Austrian base kept us up-to-date on what he was doing. Some of his stories made it into the manuscript he was writing. Others for security reasons did not. He wrote to our family about some of the ethical issues that a Bible Smuggler faces: What do you do when asked at the border if you have Bibles? How do you hold church services when they have been banned? These very real dilemmas were addressed in his manuscript in the context of a story of high risk, betrayal, faith, prison escapes, near misses, revolution, death, and even a little romance. All was skilfully woven together in a way that put the manuscript into the “can’t put down” category.

In the late fall of 1989 we received a letter from Pat. “I’m not very hopeful for the situation in Romania”, he wrote, “there are soldiers with sub-machine guns on every corner.” Six weeks later, the revolution had been successful and Ceaușescu was arrested.. “When Ceaușescu was shown on TV, soldiers became so angry at him, they wanted to shoot the TV.” On Christmas day, 1989, Ceaușescu and his wife were led before a firing squad and executed. They had been tried before a secret tribunal and found guilty of multiple crimes against the country.

A few days later I was watching the CBS evening news. The Romanian border had just been opened with the West and CBS had a reporter on the spot interviewing the first visitors to make the trip across. I almost fell out of my chair when I saw my brother Pat, and Holly (his future wife), smiling at the cameras from inside their vehicle? “Why are you headed into Romania”, the reporter asked? “We heard there was great skiing in Romania!”, came the response. The Bibles were, as usual, still carefully concealed. I learned later that they were given a tank escort into Bucharest and he was offered a ride!

So what happened to the manuscript? In 1995, Pat and Holly moved to Japan to teach English in order to pay down school debts. The manuscript went into a box. For the twelve years they were in Japan, another year in Kenya, and nine more years in Canada, the manuscript sat in the box unseen. About a year ago Pat happened upon the box and opened it. There was the manuscript. The floppy disks on which it had been written were long gone. “We really should do something with this,” Holly said. With the help of a friend, Pat had the book scanned and converted back into readable text. Holly found a publishing contest to enter, and so Pat spent a few more weeks editing the book to get it ready to submit.

They won the contest!

At his website, Patrick writes: “…I’m a Canadian, now living in Kelowna, BC. I’m a graduate of Wheaton College (MA, Inter-cultural Studies, 1995) and Regent University (MBA, International Business, 2007)…” He adds that he “is an ambassador for Open Doors, Canada. If you want to help your persecuted brothers and sisters around the world, there are so many opportunities to get involved.”

At Word Alive, here’s a summary of the book:

Jim, Nick, and Kirsten have always had a heart for their fellow believers behind the Iron Curtain. It’s one thing to pray for their brothers and sisters in Romania, though, and another thing entirely to face hostile border guards with illegal Bibles hidden in their van. Only God can blind the eyes of those searching the vehicle so the three of them will be allowed to pass through safely.

Someone in the underground Romanian church is an informer, and the three Bible smugglers want to know who. The brutal dictatorship of Nicolae Ceaușescu, the watching eyes of the secret police, and a personal vendetta being carried out by a colonel with a forty-year grudge have put them and all the believers in danger. As rumours of revolution swirl around them, Jim, Nick, and Kirsten face an impossible dilemma. If they can’t trust those who call themselves Christians, who can they trust?

At Internet Monk there’s an excerpt from the book.

Finally, at Word Alive Press, you can read the official contest announcement with winners and runners-up.

For U.S. customers, the book may be ordered by U.S. stores through Anchor Distributors.

ISBN: 9781486617548 | paperback | 224 pages | $19.99 US/CDN





August is a Long Time to Wait

Right now suspense is a hot genre in many of our stores. It has made gains while we’ve seen drops in Romantic Fiction, Amish Fiction and Biblical Fiction.

But you’ll have to wait eight months to have this trio of new titles from Bethany House and Revell bestselling authors in your store. Each shares exactly the same release date: August 6, 2019.

Honestly, I’d love to have a few of these tomorrow! Patience is a virtue, right?

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

The Books Francine Rivers Regrets Writing

Earlier today, an article on the Premier Christianity website in the UK an article caught my attention: 5 Christian authors who regret books they’ve written. I’m going to guess the trigger for the article was the one covered first, I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris. (As we reported earlier, Harris has asked for it, all its related products, and two titles which followed in its wake to be pulled from the market.)

The others were William Powell, author of The Anarchist Cookbook; Lewis Carrol, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; Francine Rivers; and Frank Peretti, co-author of House.

The latter author’s writeup notes:

By the time the R-Rated US film was released, Frank says he had ‘totally separated’ himself from both the book and movie.

“I didn’t want anything to do with either one. I’d rather go for a deeper topic, and for me more meaningful rather than all the excessive violence and darkness. It gave me the creeps!”

With Francine Rivers however, the article conveniently linked to an interview with her also published this week at Premier Christianity — she’s in Wimbledon for a large Christian publishing trade show — Francine Rivers: The author of Redeeming Love reveals what drives her work.

The first article noted:

Francine refers to her pre-conversion works as being “BC” (before Christ) and has taken proactive steps to ensure they can’t be reprinted.

while the second provides some backstory:

After graduating with a degree in English and journalism she began her writing career as a reporter. It wasn’t until her in-laws lent her some romance novels that she realised her true calling was to write fiction. In the decade that followed the publication of her first novel in 1976, Francine found success in the general market through her steamy historical novels.

On a more positive note, Redeeming Love is still her favourite of all her titles, but the hardest book to write was Atonement Child. Why? You’ll need to read the article.

♦ Related: We posted this in August 2011, when Redeeming Love was celebrating its 20th anniversary:

Publishers Join Forces with USA Today to Promote Fiction

A number of publishers from across the broader world of historical, contemporary and romantic fiction are now releasing chapter excerpts to a site called “Happily Ever After” which is a division of USA Today.  Among them is the Revell division of Baker Book Group which offers a very short excerpt from Everything She Didn’t Say by Jane Kirkpatrick and a much more generous excerpt from Christmas by the Sea by Melody Carlson.

As someone who has pushed for chapter excerpts over and over and over and over again, you would think I might be happy with this arrangement, but I resent that I have to send my customers to this particular platform — USA Today — for them to read these.

Again, to repeat; you go to COSTCO and you get FREE SAMPLES and that spurs you to BUY THE PRODUCT.

Publishers: This isn’t rocket science. Or are you books so terrible you don’t think the chapter excerpts can entice?

Why can’t the Christian market have a platform like Happily Ever After where we can refer customers to try the books on for size?


Do Authors Reap Full Benefit When Characters are Relinquished?

I am frequently asked, “Paul, if there are eight Love Comes Softly books, why are there eleven DVDs?” (Seriously, complete strangers walk up to me on the street and ask me this all the time.)

The answer is that if you read the fine print, the extra stories, including the Christmas special, were based on characters from the Love Comes Softly books. Or the disclaimer will state something like inspired by characters created by Janette Oke.

When authors relinquish rights for screenplays to be adapted from their characters, it can lead to the current situation where When Calls the Heart, in the Wikipedia graphic below — click to link to the page — is now up to 47 episodes.

To make matters more confusing for retailers, a few of the videos are based on episodes which aired in different configurations or under different titles during the Hallmark broadcast series.

…What got me thinking about this was looking at some of the different spinoff products which have emerged. Edify Films has water bottles, a 20-oz cup, mugs, and a colouring book; Word also has a colouring book; and Ellie Claire has a journal. Does Ms. Oke get full royalties for these, or is that part of what she relinquished in licensing the film company to adapt the characters?

Janette Oke revolutionized Christian fiction. Her work stands as groundbreaking on a short list of game changing Christian fiction authors which includes Catherine Marshall, Frank Peretti and the LaHaye/Jenkins team. Their work continues what was begun by John Bunyan, C. S. Lewis, Charles Sheldon and Lew Wallace.

Today, with movie content providers hungry for content, the best of the best novels are being mined for screenplay potential, and where the film industry is involved, licensing of tie-in products quickly follows. The Kendrick Brothers probably did this best with a variety of spinoff products related to Fireproof, Facing the Giants, Courageous, and War Room. But there are also God’s Not Dead journals, mugs and t-shirts.

How the money all gets divided is above my pay grade, but I’m sure the royalty distribution would be fascinating to observe. Better yet would be to see the products which were rejected as tacky, exploitative, and inappropriate. According to Phil Vischer, when it came to Veggie Tales there were some rather incredible proposals which fortunately never made it to your bookstore or mine.

Still, the writer in me wants to see the creators maintain as much control over their characters and settings as possible.

Though not tied to a movie, this is the one tie-in product which made us blush. It was the summer of 2012, the venue was Zellers department stores across Canada, and the vendor was American Greetings.

Ted Dekker Returns to Christian-Owned Publishing Imprint

After several years with Center Street and Faithwords, both divisions of mega publishing company Hachette Book Group, the third largest trade and educational publisher in the world, Christian suspense author Ted Dekker is back with a Christian owned company, Revell Books.

The genre is often referred to as speculative fiction, because the plot lines can include supernatural contrivances; elements which are not part of the natural world. In a recent article on Christian fiction, Revell told Publisher’s Weekly that The 49th Mystic “portrays characters who live in two worlds and must recover five ancient seals to save themselves from destruction;” adding that, “The author of more than 40 books and winner of many awards, Dekker has sold more than 10 million copies of his books worldwide.”

Indeed a look at the Revell catalog shows that they have continued to up their game in suspense publishing with a strong presence in the category including work by Dee Henderson, Dani Pettrey, Lynette Eason, Lisa Harris, Irene Hannon and more; as well as science fiction titles by Frank Peretti, Bill Myers, Alton Gansky, Angela Hunt, Thomas Locke and more.

A press release discussed the new title:

“We love to publish a gripping suspense novel, and Ted Dekker sets the highest standard in that category,” said Dwight Baker, president of Baker Publishing Group. “Our Revell team has prepared for many years to address this exciting new challenge to represent Ted Dekker and serve his many readers.”

Andrea Doering, executive editor for Revell, stated, “Publishing Ted Dekker’s work has been a goal for our team at Revell, and we’re thrilled to partner with him; Ted’s talent for creating an intense, richly layered story that stays with readers is just incredible.”

Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing David Lewis, added, “We are very pleased to have reached an agreement to publish Ted Dekker’s novels. His many previous novels have thrilled, entertained and scared readers, who love his writing as do we. We look forward to continuing with his current fans and to finding new readers for his books.

The 49th Mystic releases in May.