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

Monday, September 28, 2015

Mrs. President???

Although I pretty much gave up hope in politics and especially our two-party monopoly system by college age, I have to admit, I've been a little excited about the upcoming 2016 elections. For the first time ever, we have viable female candidates in the major political parties, not only for vice-president (which, btw, has only happened twice), but for actual president. And thank goodness, we have one on both the Republican and Democratic sides, because I could never bring myself to vote for Hillary (who pretty much represents everything I don't like and don't trust about politics) despite my fervent support of female empowerment.

 On the other hand, I've been very impressed by Carly Fiorina. She's tough, sharp, and on target. She's clawed her way to the top, mostly through her excellent speech and debate skills. She's already conquered the corporate world, despite the so-called "glass ceilings" for women, and now she's ready to take on running our country. And I like that she while she has proven herself a competent leader, she has not spent her life mired in that political system I dislike so much. If indeed Hillary does win the Democratic nomination, I strongly believe that Carly would be the opponent with the greatest chance of beating her.

 I confessed recently on facebook, that despite the fact that I disagree with many of Obama's political stances, as someone who has long been interested in African-American history and issues, I smile every time I see him and his lovely wife and daughters representing our country as the first family. (And Michelle totally rocked on So You Think You Can Dance!) I'm glad that the obstacles to race and sex are being overcome in our country.

It makes me hopeful that someday we will hear the words "Mrs. President" or perhaps "Madam President" if she prefers.

Here's a funny little video that shows the types of obstacles Carly Fiorina has overcome. Hopefully we're getting beyond some of this thinking, but no doubt, Carly has been a valiant woman to get to the place she is now.

Monday, September 21, 2015

More Chivalrous Fun!!!

I wanted to share a few fun new blog articles about Chivalrous with my readers today. The first is about how my two badly behaved malti-poos helped to inspire some endearing characters for the book. Can you handle the cuteness? Click here to read the article on USA Today's Happy-Ever-After blog.

The second is about me and my critique partner Roseanna White. We've been partners in this writing quest since 2010, and in a surprising twist of fate, we both had books releasing with Bethany House this year on September 8th. I mean, seriously, what are the odds? All I can say is that it's a God thing. Beyond being critique partners, she is also my senior editor at WhiteFire Publishing, where I work as a part-time in acquisitions. She is also a great friend of mine, and my favorite author. To top it all off, we only live about six hours apart, and so we've had several opportunities over the years to visit in person. The best was when she came to town for a surprise party some of my friends threw for me celebrating my contract with Bethany House Publishers. I was indeed surprised by the party, but especially stunned to see Roseanna, and excited to learn that she and her husband were staying the night at my house :) Anyway, here's the article about our critique partnership that was featured on the Bethany House blog. 

That should be enough reading to keep you busy for a while. And while your at it, don't forget to read Chivalrous for yourself!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Chivalrous Beginnings

* The winner of last week's Valiant Hearts "Swag" giveaway is "Princessica of books." I will be contacting you by email soon :) *

Chivalrous at Barnes and Noble
This week I thought it would be fun to tell you a little bit about the origins of Chivalrous. In the spring of 2013 I was walking and praying about an idea for a young adult medieval novel. Suddenly it came to me: books with strong heroines in legendary male medieval roles! I'm sure part of my inspiration came from the BBC Robin Hood I had been watching with its tough Maid Marian and female Djaq, but even Once Upon a Time was doing fairy tale retellings with kick butt heroines. Not to mention other strong heroines like Merida in Brave and Katniss in the Hunger Games.

I knew in an instant I had found a stellar idea, and my mind entered that magical creative haze. By the end of the evening I had landed on the series name Valiant Hearts, and I had premises for several books based on legends. Then I played around combining strong words with romantic words for titles: Dauntless Love, Chivalrous Dreams, Gallant Beauty, ect... Originally I planned to write them as stand alone books in different medieval times and places.

The second book in the series would be Chivalrous Dreams, an Athurian type story with a Lancelot and Guinevere twist. I was going to place it in a fictional kingdom in the mountainous part of Germany in the Holy Roman Empire in the late 1200s.

But I was also very open to working with a publisher and incorporating their ideas for this series. When Bethany offered me a contract for book one, formerly titled Dauntless Love, they asked for a few changes in direction. First, they chopped down the titles to one word, thus Dauntless, Chivalrous, and Courageous. Second, they wanted me to add more point of view characters and bring out the epic adventure feel. And third, they wanted the books to spin directly off one another by time, place, and linking characters.

Picture from "The Artist Librarian"
That required some big changes to my Chivalrous idea. It moved to 1217 when the armor was still chain mail and tournaments were still pretty wild. And it needed to take place in a fictional dukedom (technically duchy, but I felt like that word was too weird) in England instead of a kingdom, so I was dealing with dukes and duchesses rather than kings and queens. I decided that in my fictional Athurian dukedom, they would have more progressive, civilized rules for their tournaments and focus them more on jousts the way I had originally envisioned the story.

But the story itself had to undergo some significant changes too. The biggest was that peasant and outsider, Allen of Ellsworth from book one, would now be my hero. Originally the hero of this book was going to be a nobleman from the country who already knew Gwendolyn but just didn't know the secret that she fought as a knight. I had to get pretty creative to work out a scenario that allowed this former peasant to fit my plot, but evidently I managed that part pretty well, because I haven't had any complaints so far.

Favorite quote meme by Janeen Ippolito
That left one final problem. Allen and Gwen didn't know each other, and I hate whirlwind romances. I tried to give them some extended time together off the page, but I'm not sure if everyone caught that, and even then, it was only about a few weeks total. And I tried to make their relationship more about God's will than romantic tingles and shivers. Finally, the romance tied into the plot and at some point became an issue of survival. I hope I managed all of that.The truth remains, I don't generally think whirlwind romances are smart. You need time to really know a person and their character.

Having Allen in the book provided for some other great surprises I never pictured in the early versions, but I wouldn't want to give those away. And of course every story takes on a life of its own and follows unexpected twists and turns. The inclusion of dark magic and Morgaine in Chivalrous was a complete surprise to me, but became necessary to provide motivation for the villain. Since it fit the Arthur feel perfectly, I went with it, although I felt strongly about depicting magic as evil rather than in the light way it is treated in the Arthur stories. Even after all of that was said and done, the publisher requested some additional tweaks, like more action and less introspection, which is always a good idea.

So that is the evolution of Chivalrous. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

What's something in your life that didn't turn out the way you expected it?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A Chivalrous Release Party!!!

Welcome to 1217, Edendale, England. The minstrels are warming up, and dancing will commence shortly. So pull up a bench in the great hall, grab a goose leg, and prepare to party! Chivalrous "officially" releases today, although it has already been available on amazon for a week or so.

Meet Sir Allen, a newcomer to our fair Edendale, but already well-loved by those who spent time with him in Dauntless. Quite a cutie, right? And no, of course you didn't see him on the Gilmore Girls, that must have been some distant ancestor. Excuse me Sir Allen, could you please fetch me some mulled cider from yon serving wench?

Okay, I confess, this is actor Jared Padalecki

And here is Gwendolyn, ready for a party for once thanks to the careful ministrations of her faithful lady's maid, Rosalind. We get a glimpse at the gentle side of the fierce female knight in this picture, although I'm sure she's itching to get back into something more comfortable. Looks like she's reading that book that Sir Allen recommended to her.

I was picturing actress LeeLee Sobieski as Gwen

My launch team has been hard at work spreading the news. Here is an awesome image created by Laura Pol with her favorite quote from the book.

And here is an image with my code of chivalry created by Raechel Lenore. Click on it for a better look.

This is Raechel herself, who definitely wins the prize for most adorable and enthusiastic launch picture. Way to get in the spirit!

Early reviews have already been coming in for the book. Here are a few of my favorite quotes to whet your appetite. 

What reviewers are saying...

Chivalrous is book two in Dina L. Sleiman’s Valiant Heart series. I loved Dauntless, but I gotta say . . . this one is even better! Ms. Sleiman has stepped up her game (jousting perhaps?!) and given us an Arthurian-inspired medieval story filled with believable characters and a plot packed with twists you won’t see coming...I give Chivalrous five lances!  ~ Darlene L. Turner

This novel has so many threads that make it a rich tapestry befitting the walls of a castle throne room. The exploration of identity can effect both teens and adults alike as people are ever changing. ~ Shannon L. Gonzalez

It’s books like these that give me hope for the Christian fiction genre. I don’t think I rolled my eyes once, which is a habit of mine while reading most Christian fiction novels. I’m so glad to be seeing this kind of material emerge. While I only read a sample of Dauntless, book #1 in the Valiant Heart Series, I can now say that I look forward to reading the rest and anything else from Dina L. Sleiman. ~ Brittney, Goodreads

This book just felt like home – you know how some books do that? I just felt soo happy reading it. ~ Raechel Lenore

I have only one piece of advice concerning this book. Read it. If you like King Arthur, read it. If you enjoy lovely prose, read it. If you couldn't put down her first book in this series, Dauntless, read Chivalrous. This book is brilliant. ~ Michele Harper

One of my favorite authors, Dina Sleiman has outdone herself with Chivalrous. This book has wonderful characters, great adventure, and a charming romance. ~ Susan Johnson

Still not convinced? Read a free sample here.  Or check out this great interview in Family Fiction Edge Magazine.

Oh! The minstrels are ready and the dance space has been cleared. You know I can't miss out on the dancing, so you must excuse me. I hear Gwendolyn might give us a magical performance on her pipe later, so be sure to stick around for the fun!

Speaking of fun, if you haven't ordered Chivalrous yet, what are you waiting for?

And it wouldn't be a party without a prize, so leave a comment with your email address below for your chance to win some great Valiant Hearts "swag." Deadline is Sunday September 13th. Winner will be announced next Monday.