Winner of the American Christian Fiction Writer's Carol Award for Dauntless!!!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Take My Match Making Quiz

Do your reading interests match my writing specialties? Take my match making quiz and find out.

Every writer is unique. We all have our own strengths and focuses. And we have other areas that just aren't our specialties. Much like finding the right spouse, I think it's important for writers to find the right readers who appreciate their books and what they have to offer, rather than trying to please everyone, which is pretty much impossible. I've been paying a lot of attention to my reviews lately, and trying to pin down my precise audience. Or as some marketing experts call it, my tribe!

So who is the Dina Sleiman tribe and who should probably just stay away from my books? Let me try to explain with this match making quiz.

Do you like only one category of fiction or a broad variety? If you are very faithful to a specific category like romance or suspense, you might feel that certain elements are lacking from my books or that the pacing is not quite what you expected. But if you a have broad interests, you will be delighted to find many of your favorite ingredients mixed together in a lovely potpourri throughout my books. My Valiant Hearts novels include a heaping helping of romance, a good bit of action, dashes of suspense and humor, and even coming of age elements--all set against a historical backdrop. But don't necessarily expect my heroes and heroines to meet in chapter one, or the suspense to kick off from the very first scene. Be ready for a new adventure.

Are you looking for fantasy or historical fiction? While I enjoy fantasy books for the most part, they include way too much plot and action for me, and really, I don't quite understand the genre. My Valiant Hearts books are historical. They are set in real times and real countries, although often fictional towns. They have elements that might appeal to fantasy readers, like medieval settings and adventure, but if you're specifically looking for fantasy books, that's not what I write. On the other hand, I have a fanciful imagination and my books are more focused on the story and fictional elements than the historical account itself. While I try to be as historically accurate as possible, I use history as a backdrop, not as a primary subject.

Do you like romance and happy endings? If you hate romance and roll your eyes at it and find it gaggy, don't waste your time on my books. Or if you want to shield your kids from romance for some reason, then pick a different author. While I don't consider myself a classic romance writer, I love romance, and I include it in all of my books. My Love in Three Quarter Time is absolutely a romance novel. And I'll let you in on a little secret, Dauntless was originally written as a romance novel and then expanded to bring in a more epic adventure feel. There is a good bit of romance at the heart of everything I write. If you want a book that's dark and depressing and will leave you filled with angst, don't bother with my books. They are full of hope, light, and redemption. I'll be the first to admit, I'm a happy ending girl.

Do you read for plot alone or do you enjoy the more relational and artistic elements of fiction? If you read mostly for plot and tend to skip over lovely descriptions, long conversations, and inner monologues, you might not like my books very much. In fact, you might feel a little lost, because that's where a lot of the good stuff happens. If thoughts of characters, inner journeys, and beautiful language make you tingle, then I am the author for you. If you care as much about what is going on inside a character and appreciate a dash of psychology, philosophy, and deep spirituality, then prepare to be thrilled.

Are you looking for religion or spirituality? When it comes to spiritual threads, I like to go deep. My books will challenge you to experience Christ on a very personal level. They are not just clean books about good morals. They examine hard questions and real life problems, and explore how a very active and present God can make Himself known to you in those places. If you want a squeaky clean, goody-goody book that is G-rated and more sanitized than the Bible itself, please look elsewhere. If you think that God gave us Jesus and the Bible and then left us to our own devices for the next 2000 years, no longer speaking to us or moving in miraculous ways, don't waste your time on my books. Unless of course you are interested in learning and growing and being challenged with new ideas. Then by all means, I welcome you to try them.

Are you willing to read a book geared toward older teen girls and young adult women? My new Valiant Hearts books should appeal to ages 12 through adult, but my goal has always been to write to older teens and younger women. I think you will find that all of my books resonate with that group. And I intend to keep them as my primary audience and focus my books towards their needs and interests. These books are not for elementary kids, and as I've mentioned, they do include romance and some grittier topics. I certainly don't mean to offend anyone, but I'm not going to apologize for tailoring my books to my target audience. And while I'm sure many boys and men could enjoy the Valiant Hearts series, they are more geared toward females.

Do you like heroines who are both strong and feminine? If you are looking for wilting maidens and damsels in distress saved by shining knights who swoop in on their giant horses, look elsewhere. The personalities of these Valiant Hearts heroines will vary from book to book, but some of them are pretty tough, and all of them are courageous and able and willing to rise to whatever challenges they might face. The guys aren't weak--these girls deserve strong men of good character--but the girls are pretty much their equals in every way. The theme of the series is "Be Strong and Courageous," and I stand by that theme. If female empowerment bugs you, if you would rather read about women staying home and quilting and cooking and being demure, you have been fairly warned. On the other hand, if you are looking for women trying to act like men and deny their God-given feminine traits, you won't find them in my books either. I want to show young women that they can be both strong and feminine at the same time.

So that's me and my writing. What do you think? Are we a match made in heaven??? Why or why not?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Romance Stuff #6 - Cappuccino, Champagne, and Crack

No, this is not a post about the theology of alcohol consumption or a just say no to drugs P.S.A. In this post the cappuccino, champagne, and crack are metaphors for the feelings surrounding falling in love.

One of the classic themes in young adult literature is the awakening of sexuality. I don't mean having sex (at least I hope not!), but rather the awakening of a young women's body and her discovery of her own femininity and all the giggles, angst, and confusion that go along with that. Often, young adult novels deal with the first stirrings of love. And in historical romance books like mine set in times when girls married young, they might even be heading toward matrimony.

But what to do with all of these feelings? We certainly don't want hormones and lust running the show. On the other hand, God has given us love and romance as a beautiful picture of the relationship He longs to have with his bride, the church. And these feelings aren't wrong. They are natural. Within the proper boundaries, they are very beautiful. Personally, I'm not a fan of marriage decisions based 100% on practical considerations with no feelings involved. Marriage is hard enough when you are in love, and those positive feelings can be very helpful when rough patches come along. Plus, add the expectation of physical intimacy into the mix--yeah, some good feelings are pretty much necessary at that point.

My post last week had me asking myself the question, how can I describe the right kind of feelings that actually point to the sort of love that becomes a verb and not just a noun? Which brings my mental meandering back guessed it...cappuccino, champagne, and crack.

Cappuccino Relationships - Cappuccino is warm, sweet (at least the way I drink it), and comforting with a touch of froth. You can have it caffeinated to energize you and start your day off right, or a decaf version to lull you to sleep. Cappuccino even has some good stuff in there that you need, like protein and antioxidants. This reflects the  relationship that began as friendship and slowly morphed into something more. Or perhaps the relationship that started out in the bubbly champagne type state, but mellowed and deepened with time. It's like a cozy fleece blanket that brings you peace and comfort. Your favorite pjs or slippers. Cappuccino and slippers and pjs and blankets are like best friends, they encourage you and minister to you after a long day. Who ever really gets tired of them? Although you could conceivably live without them, you would never want to. You miss them when they're gone. You anticipate seeing them again, perhaps even long and yearn for them. If you neglect a cappuccino relationship, it might turn cold, stale, even bitter and black, but with a bit of TLC, you can doctor it back to something delicious. Love feels a lot like cappuccino. And cappuccino relationships are built to last last. By all means, enjoy the cappuccino!

Champagne Relationships - Champagne is bubbly, delightful, tingly, and something quite special. But it's not an everyday drink. If over imbibed, it could quickly begin to cloud your judgement and leave you dizzy. Champagne reflects the sort of feelings that take you by surprise. The guy you are instantly attracted to, and in some sort of magical serendipity, he feels the same way. There seem to be little magnets in your finger tips and lips that keep pulling you toward him even though you've only begun to develop any real sort of relationship. This feeling could best be described as romance, crush, or infatuation. Much like champagne, these sensations in and of themselves are not bad. But they can easily throw you off course. You could even become addicted to the champagne feeling to the degree that a nice warm cup of cappuccino just won't do it for you anymore, and that's a problem. Scientists say that the infatuation feeling generally only lasts about six months. If a champagne relationship comes into your life, proceed with caution. Remember, cappuccino relationships are the ones that stand the test of time. Champagne feelings might or might not lead to true love in the end. Don't make any life altering decisions while under the influence of champagne!

Crack Relationships - Crack is an artificial high. It is dangerous, addictive, disorienting, and leads to self-destruction. It's an escape from reality. It's illegal and immoral. I can only imagine it must feel pretty good, in a weird sort of way, or people wouldn't do it.  But it grabs you by the throat and won't let go. You grow desperate, willing to do just about anything--no matter how wrong or dangerous--to continue your relationship with crack. Some people seem to think love should be like crack. Bella and Edward in Twilight are a good example of a crack relationship. Or Taylor Swift's song "Blank Space." But crack relationships aren't really love. Certainly not any godly sort of love. Crack relationships are unhealthy, twisted, desperate versions of love. If you find yourself prone to crack relationships, you might want to seek counseling, or at least read a good self-help book like Love is a Choice: The Definitive Book on Letting Go of Unhealthy Relationships. Crack relationships might look cool from a distance, they might seem exciting in the beginning. But crack relationships are destined for destruction. Stay far, far, away!!!!

If you're still in that place of discovering and understanding love, keep these three important words in mind: cappuccino, champagne, crack. If you're long past all of this and snugly settled into your own cappuccino style marriage, consider sharing this post with a special young lady in your life.

So that's my summary on lovey dovey, ooey gooey feelings. Did I forget any? What do you think of my analogies?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Romance Stuff #5 - Not a Twilight Fan

Yes, I can hear the boos and hisses all the way across the internet. So let me begin by saying, I have read the first Twilight book, and I was as enthralled as anyone. The author has certainly hit on something that young girls, and their older counterparts, find truly magical. The power of love. The books are sexy yet innocent. Thrilling page turners. What's not to like?

A lot.

I'm not going to get on my high horse about the occult or vampires. It's a fantasy story. I get that. I found Edward's desire to fight the evil within him quite an interesting take on the whole vampire legend. And although parts of the story (vampire baseball game?) were ridiculous, I still enjoyed the book.

Here's my issue. Edward is a danger to Bella. She knows this. He is violent and addicted to her blood. As a human, she can't even handle his physical strength. But she's willing to take any risk for him. For love. For the passionate, tumultuous feelings she is experiencing. Honestly, I don't think this is a good message to be sending teenage girls. Sure he's always there for her. Sure he makes sacrifices, but is that really enough?

What about the girl who falls in love with the golden-hearted guy with rage issues? What about the one whose hormones go off the charts over an alcoholic or drug addict. Surely love will conquer all. Right? Unfortunately, more often that not, WRONG!!! It takes a long time and a lot of work in counseling to overcome those sorts of problems and addictions. Love alone will not solve them. Will power alone will not solve them. They will only get you caught in a horrible cycle of co-dependency.

Okay, maybe you still think I'm ridiculous, but those are the reasons that I'm not a fan. I think the relationship between Edward and Bella is co-dependent, unhealthy, and in any sort of real-life equivalent, destined for disaster. (Click here to see my "No Co-Dependency Allowed" post)

Love is wonderful, feelings are great, but in the end every young woman should make wise, logical, and hopefully Holy Spirit-led decisions about what sort of man she will share her life with. Call me unromantic, but maybe I've learned the hard way, and maybe I just want the best for the young ladies who are my readers.

What do you think of Twilight?

Monday, April 6, 2015

Romance Stuff #4 - Finding a Good Guy

A lot of people say that romance novels give readers unrealistic expectations about men and relationships. I hope that I don’t do that. I hope that you can tell my “heroes” are regular flawed people with good character. They say stupid things they regret sometimes. They get moody, jealous, angry. They make mistakes. Sometimes they get scared. But they are men of integrity and honor, they respect women, love God, and they put others before themselves.

Although romance novels always have a “hero,” in real life heroes are just those guys who know how to love properly and treat people well. They don’t have to be the strongest, or the smartest, or the handsomest, or the most romantic. They just need to be good men who love God. In fact, we girls can and should be heroes too!

In case I have unwittingly given you any unrealistic ideas about men in any of my books, allow me to set the record straight.

Good Men Still Do:
Get grumpy when they’re tired
Get “hangry”
Say stupid things
Feel scared and insecure
Watch/play too match t.v./sports/video games
Fart and burp at inappropriate times
Disagree with you
Have bad days at work
Have annoying habits
Leave the toilet seat up
Procrastinate Doing Chores
Forget Things
Fail to understand your feelings
Lose their tempers

These are areas about which you will need to communicate honestly. Gently express what bothers you. Request the things you want. Honor them where honor is due. Don't play games or expect them to read your mind. And patiently negotiate your way to a positive relationship that will be a blessing to both of you.

Good Men Do Not:
Habitually lie to you
Cheat on you
Hide money from you 
Cheat in business
Avoid working and expect you to support them
Manipulate through pressure or guilt
Belittle through threats and insults
Bully physically or emotionally
Hit you – ever!
Intentionally ignore your or your children’s feelings
Neglect the physical needs of you or your children
Become addicted to pornography
Commit crimes
Abuse drugs or alcohol
Ask you to lie for them or cover up their issues

The first list might seem a little silly, but the second one is deadly serious. If you find yourself in a relationship with a man like that, get out while you can. If you are already married to a man like that, then let me be clear. This is not okay. It is not normal. And most importantly, it is not your fault! Stand up for yourself, get support, get counseling, and establish healthy boundaries against unacceptable behavior. If your church tells you to just be quiet and put up with it, find a new church!

But for those of you who are, or will be, in normal up and down marriages with regular real life people, exercise love, forgiveness, and understanding. Nobody’s perfect, but if you choose a man with good character and a heart after God, you will be able to grow a life together. 

What do you look for in a man? Who have been some of your favorite literary "heroes"?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Peace Out Wednesdays!

Well, I think we can say release month is officially over. The hooplah is settling down, and I am saying farewell to my release month special Wednesday news posts. Maybe I'll bring them back in September for Chivalrous.

Last week I finally had the chance to make my own Dauntless bookstore sightings. I feel like I can breathe a little sigh of relief knowing they are out there in the world where people can find them.

This is my local Lifeway. At Lifeway Dauntless was located in their extensive teen fiction section.

And this is my local Family Christian bookstore, where it was actually located right with the general Christian fiction.

So I'm going to say peace out to Wednesdays. But if you loved Dauntless or if you are a big fan of either YA or medieval, please take a moment to say a little prayer that it will sell well and find it's audience so that I can continue writing this series and so that publishers will want to publish more books like it!