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

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Ebooks and Interviews Galore

Wow, talk about a busy week. First and most importantly, Dauntless released on ebook yesterday!!!! That means it is now available online in print and ebook format. Look for it to show up next week in stores on the official release date of March 3rd! And, I had my first pre-recorded radio interview, which I really enjoyed. I'll share a link when it becomes available.

Plus, it's been a busy blog interview week. Each one has it's own unique take. Check out these:

Golden Keyes Parson's Blog, (find out what inspires me)

The Book Club Network, (with some great pictures and the four words that describe me)

And also this extra fun "Face Off" edition on a TransParent Mom. I think the picture says it all.

Yeah, fellow Virginian Charity and I get a little feisty. You definitely need to check it out! And one last fun early bookstore sighting in Nebraska by Jamie Gil.

If you happen to run into Dauntless while you're out and about, let me know!

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Selection Series

Yes, my obsession with all things YA Dystopian continues. As I've mentioned before, LOVED the Hunger Games, LOVED Divergent, enjoyed Delirium, but I had some reservations for young readers, meh on Matched, although the covers are gorgeous. And speaking of gorgeous covers, drum roll please...

And I'm just getting started. The Selection brings to mind classic stories like Cinderella and Queen Esther, but is set in a dystopian future. Of all the series I've mentioned so far, this one wins for best romance. Despite the dystopian caste system and civil unrest, it is for the most part a romantic and at times even comical read. Our heroine, America Singer, is one of a group of thirty-five normal girls chosen as a potential wife for the handsome Prince Maxton. Problem is, she already has a secret love from a lower caste. The dystopian elements are not the strongest, even a little cheesy at times. The caste system seems a bit illogical, but maybe that's part of the point. And the northern and southern rebels are hazy, hokey, and not terribly believable. But...the love story is awesome! Author Kiera Cass has a light, breezy style that is sure to keep you reading. Now for more gorgeousness...

In book two, The Elite, America has made the cut to the top six girls. She has come to truly like and admire Prince Maxton, but meanwhile, she discovers more about the warped political system surrounding her. Can she ever picture herself as a queen? Then comes...

Let's face it, this series is worth reading for the exquisite gowns alone. Unlike many of the other dystopian series, book 3, The One, is just as good as (if not better than) the other books. The dystopian elements finally become clearer and more believable. The climax to the series is exciting and full of twists and turns. And for once, YES!!!, a happy ending full of light and hope.

As for younger readers, this series is very appropriate for teens. The books are safely PG, and there is nothing I need to warn you about beyond some steamy kissing scenes. Unlike some of the other dystopian books, there is no dark, psychological trauma. I felt it offered good lessons about what is truly important in love, life, and friendship. Some adults might find the heroine a little young for their tastes, but if you enjoy a good fairy tale, I doubt you'll mind.

I can't really put this series in the same category as Hunger Games and Divergent. It's a little silly in comparison. But if you would enjoy reading "dystopian lite" with lots of romance, then I say go for it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Libraries, Contests, and Extras, Oh My!

My most exciting news this week, is that one of my supporters sent me this screen shot of Dauntless in its first ever library appearance. Which is also my first ever library appearance. Translate: super excited!!!!

Also this week in news, Anne Elisabeth Stengl is featuring me on her Tales of Goldstone Wood Blog, and she is holding a special contest to giveaway three copies of Dauntless to blogger/reviewers. She asked some pretty fun and unique interview questions. Click here to check it out. 

Finally, I wanted to point you to some cool extras that Bethany House has put online for Dauntless.
Author Q & A
Reader Discussion Questions

So in short, this has been a pretty exciting week. I hope you have a great week too!

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Delirium Series

Thanks to my daughter, I read a lot of YA dystopian novels. High on her list of favorites is the Delirium series, and she absolutely insisted that I read all of them.

 This series is about a future society that seeks to eliminate love and passion, seeing them as a sickness called the deliria, with horrible symptoms like loss of focus, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, increased heart rate, sweating, etc… I imagine most of us have joyfully suffered all those symptoms and more. LOL. So I thought close to Valentine's Day would be a great time to post about it.

While fairly sensual, full of profanity, and too mature for all but the oldest teens in my opinion, this series was a great compliment to the study of the heart I was conducting at the time when I read it. The author made some wonderful observations about the nature of love and all of its many facets, not to mention the enormous risk and cost involved in loving. Although her choice of language left much to be desired, I felt that her theme was very much in line with Christian beliefs. The dystopian society in Delirium had twisted scripture to their purposes and created their own religion, but the series seemed to subtly honor true Biblical beliefs and pointed out that the “old” religions had been based upon love and sacrifice. In fact, the heroine’s epiphany involved learning a true Biblical story which helped her understand the sacrificial nature of love.

Of the three books, I enjoyed book 2 the least. It came to nearly a grinding halt as it unveiled several months of the main character's life through backstory summary. However, I'm glad I stuck with the series, because it really picked up again after that. Most of all, I loved the ending. Here are some powerful quotes from the end of book three, Requiem by Lauren Oliver.

But it’s not about knowing. It is simply about going forward. The cureds [those cured of love] want to know; we have chosen faith instead…We will have to trust too—that the world won’t end, that tomorrow will come, and that the truth will come too.”

Take down the walls. That is, after all, the whole point. You do not know what will happen if you take down the walls; you cannot see through to the other side, don't know whether it will bring freedom or ruin, resolution or chaos. It might be paradise or destruction. Take down the walls. Otherwise you must live closely, in fear, building barricades against the unknown, saying prayers against the darkness, speaking verse of terror and tightness. Otherwise you may never know hell; but you will not find heaven, either. You will not know fresh air and flying.”

What do you think about this idea of the "deliria" and a society without love?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Dauntless Makes Some Early Appearances

Fun with Dauntless!
Well, this week in the news I'm excited to mention that the print version of Dauntless is already available on amazon almost a month early! If you pre-ordered the book, it should be on its way to you now. Some early reviews are coming in from netgalley reviewers as well. Here's a link to a review I especially liked because I felt like the woman really "got" what I was going for with the book. Click here for review.

I also received my copy...or rather my 100 copies!!! of Dauntless this week. I keep fantasizing about how fun it would be to build a fort with them in my living room and just hide out there for a while, but I'm afraid my little dogs would think that was way too fun and end up ruining at least a handful of books.

Book fort anyone?
And I've been busy organizing my launch team. If you're on the team, I'm hopeful that you will be receiving your copy soon. If you'd like to join the team, check us out here on facebook. I plan to share some fun insider information and to offer a special contest for those who support the book.

In other fun news, Chivalrous has already shown up for pre-order on several sites, but without a cover. I've seen the new cover, and it's gor-ge-ous! I'll be showing it to all of you soon :)

Monday, February 9, 2015

Thoughts on the Divergent Series

This past summer my daughter and I devoured a good bit of YA fiction, and at the top of my list is the Divergent Series. These books by new, young author Veronica Roth have become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon, and no doubt many of you have seen the movie.

Divergent is driven by a unique and powerful premise. The story takes place in a dystopian world that has been divided into “factions” based on a person’s dominant personality trait and way of viewing the world: Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, Erudite, and Candor. As someone who loves to study culture, psychology, and especially personality, I found the concept fascinating. The main character, Tris, leaves her Abnegation family behind to enter the brave, wild, and most importantly, free world of the Dauntless. There is plenty of material for an awesome book right there as Tris struggles in a new society to find her source of courage and inner strength, but as the plot develops, the story takes some awesome and unexpected twists. The result is action packed, romantic, poignant, and thought-provoking. (And the fact that my upcoming YA novel is titled Dauntless is only a small part of why I enjoyed it so much :)
The movie changes some details of the story, but keeps to the same theme and major plot points. I found the choices to be effective for the visual format, and equally enjoyed the book and the movie. However, both the book and the movie are fairly violent and contain some emotionally upsetting material, so I personally would not recommend either for children or preteens. They are also fairly sensual, although not inappropriate for the intended teen audience.
Books two and three take their own unique twists and turns as we delve further into this society, why it is breaking apart, and how it came to exist. And I loved every step of the way. Veronica Roth is a confessing Christian, and although the books are not Christian per se, I saw much more light, hope, and redemption than in other dystopian novels I have read. The main character makes one choice in book three that many Christians will not feel comfortable with, but it is handled delicately. Although I would have made a different choice as an author, the decision did seem to fit the plot, and I understood why Roth went in that direction.
I’ve heard people say these books aren’t well written, and to that I say: give me a break! I can only assume they mean something about these books did not live up to their preconceived notions of good writing, or perhaps that they are writers who are upset that this woman didn’t follow all the rules that they so meticulously adhere to and she succeeded anyway. No, Roth did not follow every “rule” of writing. She was a little heavy handed with the narrative summary, did not always place readers firmly in the scene, and sometimes drifted in and out of scenes without scene breaks. And you know what—who cares?!?! The books are mesmerizing. People love them, buy them, and tell their friends to buy them. In my opinion that is what makes a book great--the ability to move the reader--not an arbitrary set of rules.
That being said, I thought book three was the weakest. Books one and two have a single first person narrator. Book three has two first person narrators, and while I didn’t mind this choice, it was not handled as well as it could have been. I often forgot whose point of view I was in, which says to me that the point of views should have been more distinctive. That small distraction aside, I still thought it was a great book.
Minor spoiler alert – but keep reading anyway. A lot of people hate the ending of this trilogy, but they are usually the ones who didn’t know in advance that it would be sad. So I’m telling you straight out, the ending is sad. I went into the book aware of that fact, and was able to enjoy and appreciate the redemptive resolution, which I found quite powerful and satisfactory. In fact, my very favorite quote of the entire trilogy is found at the end.
Since I was young, I have always known this: Life damages us, every one. We can't escape that damage. But now, I am also learning this: We can be mended. We mend each other.
If you were in the world of Divergent, which faction do you think you would be and why?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Free Dauntless Sample Now Available

With the release of Dauntless less than a month away, I thought for a while I could use Wednesdays for the latest updates. Maybe call it "What's Up Wednesday" or something cheesy like that. LOL. This week's news is that a free sample of Dauntless is now available online.

Free Sample at Baker Publishing

Free Sample at Amazon

In related news, WhiteFire Publishing has just updated my older medieval novel, Dance of the Dandelion, with a slightly more historically accurate version. I'm sure my pedantic history lovers will be pleased ;) While preparing the new version I was struck by how much my writing style has changed over the last five  years. Dandelion is much more of a coming of age saga, but I still love it for its own qualities. Especially for the beautiful cadence which WhiteFire so graciously allowed me to maintain, and the intensive examination of love in all its many facets.

I'll be back next week with more news.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Confessions of a Hunger Games Groupie

I admit it. I'm a bit of a Hunger Games groupie. Through these stories, I rediscovered a love for YA literature. I read them straight through, voraciously, just a few months before I began writing the Valiant Hearts series.

Honestly, I was far too swept away by these books to analyze them as I went along. I imagine they have some literary flaws, but I certainly didn't notice as I read. I'm not completely sure why I loved them so much, except that they were pure excitement.

I think that's what is so special about YA novels, and why so many adults are enjoying them these days. They are jam packed with excitement, adventure, twists, and turns. At the same time, they take a good look at life and examine the hard questions that many commercial adult novels leave unasked.

The thing about this series that really stood out to me was the way the books inspired me on a personal level. I had reached a point in my life where on several issues, I had been weighed down by fatigue and even fear. As I read these books, I realized that somewhere along the way I had lost my fighting spirit. I wanted to be bold and courageous like Katniss. I wanted to stand up against tyranny and oppression for what I believe to be right. If Katniss could do it without God on her side, without any sense of eternal importance, purely for love and family and justice, surely I could too!

Sound like the perfect inspiration for a series titled Valiant Hearts, don't you think?

Like many readers, I was left a bit cold by the existential ending of the Hunger Games series. But that is the truth in a world without God. If God does not exist, then there is no hope for a redemptive ending. No expectation that good will win in the end. All you can do is carve out your own little space in a messed up world and try to find a shred of happiness. Fortunately, unlike the characters in theses books, I do believe in God, and redemption, and hope. I dream that my books can be a fraction as brilliant as the Hunger Games series, but even if they are not, at least I can rest assured that I leave my readers feeling positive as they face the future with hope.

Are you a Hunger Games groupie? Why or why not?