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

Monday, March 30, 2015

Romance Stuff #3 - "Heroes" to Avoid

Last week a talked a little bit about co-dependency and about the seemingly romantic but actually unhealthy attitudes some women have about love. This week let’s look at the men. Romance novels, especially secular romance novels, sometimes give awful ideas about what to look for in a man. The male lead in a romance novel is traditionally called a "hero," but the truth is that sometimes he is anything but.

Here are some typical romance heroes to avoid.

The Sweeper – You know, the guy who sweeps you off your feet. He comes out of nowhere and makes you dizzy with desire. He throws your life into to disarray, making you forget your goals and priorities, maybe even your family or religious values. Chances are, this guy is a controller. Possibly even an abuser. He wants to catch you quickly while you are off guard and before you can really see his true colors.

The First-Sighter – This guy decides in an instant that he is in love with you, and he simply must have you. Now, it is true that some intuitive people will sense a deep potential connection very early in a relationship, but those guys will be patient and willing to give time for things to grow and develop naturally. The first-sighter is more likely driven by physical attraction, chemistry, and lust. Don’t fall for it. Those things are short-lived, and once they wear off, you might find there is nothing more to the relationship. And the next time he falls in love with a woman at first sight, guess who will be left in the dust.

The Charmer – The charmer seems too good to be true—because he is. Everything out of his mouth is a compliment. He takes you to fancy places and buys you expensive gifts. When you really think hard enough about it, you might not really know who he is or what he wants out of life. But you like the way he makes you feel and you love how much he wants you. This guy is a class “A” manipulator, so expect to be manipulated for the rest of your life. And once you actually marry him, there’s no telling what you might actually have in store. He might be controlling, or a cheat, or a conman extraordinaire. 

The Rescuer – The rescuer has to be a hero. He wants to fix you, to save you, and to make you a better person—because, let’s face it, you’re just a woman and clearly too weak to take care of yourself. Don’t get me wrong, a supportive, helpful man is worth his weight in gold. But he should respect you and see your strengths as well. In a healthy relationship, support goes both ways. The rescuer will probably want to call the shots for the rest of your life. He is another potential controller and/or abuser.

The Bad Boy – The bad boy always seems sexy. He’s wounded, and he’s misunderstood. If only he could find the right woman, all would be well. Except that it doesn’t works that way in the real world. Although you might temporarily bring out his better side, you can’t save the bad boy. You might be able to inspire him and point him in the right direction, but stay far, far away until you see ample evidence of lasting change. In truth, the bad boy will most likely remain a criminal, or unemployed loser, or drug-addict, drunk, gambler, rage-aholic, whatever it might be...and only get worse as life goes on.

Okay, those are some “heroes” to avoid. Maybe what we should be looking for isn’t a hero at all. Maybe we should be looking for regular guys with good character. I’ll talk more about that next time. 

But for now, what are some things that you love in a regular guy/romance hero?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Release Excitement Winding Down

The ebook for Daunltess released just over a month ago now, and some of the initial craziness is slowing down. This week the "Join the Adventure" winners were announced. My thanks to Bethany for sponsoring this awesome giveaway. I'm sure the $250 amazon gift card winner will be very blessed.

A member of my launch team, Laura Pol, created this lovely image based on a Dauntless quote, and I have been happily sharing it around cyberspace.

The Book Club Network is still featuring Dauntless. And the reviews have really been pouring in. I'm sure I'm missing some great ones, but here is a quick sampling of a few review quotes that tickled me.

Action? Check. Romance? Check.  Kick-butt heroine? CHECK. My rating: 5 out of 5 bows and arrows. ~ Brittany the Book Nerd

With excellent writing, well developed characters, heart-warming romance, and a faith thread to weave it all together, DAUNTLESS is a must-read for both teens and adults alike! ~ Roseanna White "Historical Romance Author"

The author states on her site that Merry is historical counterpart to Katniss Everdeen and Tris Prior. At first I was like what? I'm not so sure about that. However after reading Dauntless ( hee hee Dauntless: Katniss was very dauntless and Tris joined dauntless) I agree and I have to say I think she was stronger than Tris and was right up there with Katniss. ~ Gidget Girl Reading

All I can say is WOW! I loved this book! I love this time period, I love these kinds of stories and I want more! (And I don't want to wait till the Author's next installment. I want her to speed write!) ~ Kitty "Kitty", Amazon

Dina Sleiman has done it again! Her stories always pull on my heartstrings, and "Dauntless" is no exception. Sleiman spins a web of love, danger, and intrigue around hearty characters facing odds so dauntless, only a Savior’s love could make the arrow shoot straight and thwart the enemy’s plans. Open the pages of Dauntless and fall deep, knowing you will be carried to the end of a wondrous story where the promise of more to come rests on the final words. ~ Benita Mccaulley, Amazon

This sparkling new novel is aimed at juveniles or young adults, but to all my fabulous readers I just want to say that I know that adults will love Merry’s story as well. Merry Ellison is a fearless, courageous, and highly intelligent heroine and role model. Her journey is sure to please readers of all ages and keep them anxiously awaiting other great characters just like her. ~ Charming Chelsey

This book was amazing! I could not put it down. If you love Robin Hood legends, history, and strong female characters, you will adore this book! I am already eagerly anticipating book two, Chivalrous. Come on, Dina Sleiman, write it fast! If that book is anything like this one, I will be hooked for life! Love. This. Book!!! ~ mharper, Amazon

Monday, March 23, 2015

Romance Stuff #2 - No Co-depenency Allowed!

I love romance, but sometimes I get a little concerned by the messages in romance novels, especially secular romances. So for my writing, and for this Valiant Hearts Series in particular, my goal is that the romances I depict will be excellent, healthy examples and not have even a hint of co-dependency.

 If you aren’t familiar with the term, co-dependency is when you don’t properly distinguish the boundaries between your life and responsibilities and the lives and responsibilities of others around you. This can be especially tricky in a marriage, in which two lives in many ways become one. But in order for a marriage to be healthy, it must be made of two strong, mature, and independent people who are able to stand on their own feet. When they choose to join their lives, they voluntarily become interdependent, but hopefully not co-dependent. Co-dependency leads to all sorts of unhealthy issues like addictions, lies, control, manipulation, mistreatment, and even flat out abuse.

Here is some seemingly romantic but co-dependent thinking to watch out for.

Fatal Attraction – If you fall in love so hard that you cannot possibly live without that man, yikes! I know that feeling. That, “I might as well just jump off a cliff if I can’t be with you,” feeling. It’s romantic, it’s sexy, and it’s HORRIBLY UNHEALTHY! Often these people believe they have found their “soulmate,” which by the way, is not a Christian concept. I’m all for passionate feelings, great connections, even instant attractions, but then you must take time to see if the relationship can actually work. Sometimes those instant attractions happen because the person triggers some old wound in our hearts, which can turn out awful. Other times the person might be a good fit in some ways, but all wrong in other ways, and if so, we need to be able to let them go. The goal should be to seek God for the relationship that will best fulfill HIS purposes for you and the man (or woman--if any males are reading this) you marry. While those feelings can seem awesome, especially in the beginning, in the end it is friendship, spiritual connection, and common goals that will hold a marriage together.

Defined by a Man – If you do not feel like a complete and valuable person on your own, you might be looking for trouble. A woman (or man, although I would say that's less likely for this one) should not feel like she has to get married in order to fulfill a valuable role in society or in God’s kingdom. She should not enter marriage feeling like a half of a person. She should not hold off deciding her goals for life (career, geographic location, ministry, etc…) until she meets a man. Instead, she should seek out God’s plan for her life, pursue it, and then be open to finding a man who will complement her, connect with her, understand her, and provide a positive partner for life. I know that some women really just want to be wives and mothers, which is a lovely calling, but it can be a little dangerous too, because it can put your life on hold and make you desperate to find a husband. If that’s you, pursue a related career such as nursing, childcare, teaching, interior design, or the culinary arts until if and when God brings the right man into your life.

Need to Please  – If you are so desperate to find a man and please a man that you will change your beliefs, goals, and/or opinions for him, watch out! Healthy adults don’t let others tell them what to think or make decisions for them. Likewise, healthy people don’t want to control those around them. If you are so desperate to find a man that you let him change who you are, you are likely to end up with the wrong kind of man who will take advantage of that. And once the initial romance has worn off, you will likely grow either angry and resentful or lost and depressed because you have given up your true self. If you have unhealthy attitudes or tendencies, yes, those might need to change, but for your own good, not just for a man. Of course it is great to be kind and encouraging, to take wise counsel and ask others for input, to be cooperative and pleasant. But be true to yourself! The goal is to find the right fit for you, not to please everyone who comes along.

Savior Complex – One of the hallmarks of co-dependency is the need to save or rescue someone. To some women (and men) it can seem sexy or romantic to find a broken, wounded person and try to fix them up. To rescue someone from addiction or depression or financial trouble. And you know what, chances are you will have to continue rescuing them for the rest of your life. Our God is a God of second chances. He is a God who redeems and heals and saves us from ourselves. God might call you to marry a man (or woman) whose past is less than ideal, but he will not call you to fix or rescue that man. Step back and let God do His job. Then see where things might go from there.

I hope with all my being that my Valiant Heart heroines will inspire my readers to be strong and independent women who will seek out healthy, positive relationships.

What other co-dependent or otherwise unhealthy relationship habits would you add to this list? Can you think of books that perpetuate these sorts of ideas?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Special Edition - Book Banter Winners!!!

I so enjoyed our Book Banter last night. Thanks everyone for joining me. Your questions were great! And the winners are...drum roll please...dragging this out like they do on reality shows....

Mary Ensing Zier
Julianna Rowe
Sarah Baker
Sydney James Anderson
Michelle Bolton
Becky Teaford Rowland

Winners, please be sure to Email my publicist, Amy, at with your mailing address so she can send you the book.

Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is

Last night I spent the most amazing, crazy, manic two hours (which turned into four) on a Bethany House Book Banter with current and potential fans. It was awesome! Perhaps the most surprising and exciting part was the love poured out to the YA genre. So many people thanked me and Bethany for bringing Christian YA to the public, saying that there is not nearly enough of it.

(Pulling out soapbox now)

But here's the big question...why isn't there enough of it? The answer is very simple. Not enough people buy it. There are tons of Christian writers who want to write YA. They get it. Publishers understand that teens need good books and that this is a great mission field. They get it. But at the end of the day publishing is a business and publishing houses have many employees and families to support. They choose genres that they know will sell and be profitable so that they can stay in business.

The good news is that in recent years Christian YA sales have improved, and more companies are cracking open the door to YA. But if you still think there's not enough, that means there's still not enough demand. If you want more Christian YA, then the simple fact is, you as a reading public need to spend more money on it. Like, I'm not a big movie goer, but when a good Christian movie comes out, I go and see it in the theater. I want Hollywood to know that I will spend my money to see these movies, therefore they should make more.

In fact, when I find a book I truly love, I try to buy multiple copies and give some away as gifts. Another way to help is by asking your public library system to carry the book, because libraries buy books too.

So in summary, if you like my book, if you want more Christian YA, if you want my series to continue and you want me to stay in the YA genre--buy YA books!

I know this might sound self-serving, but really in the end, it's for all of our good and for the good of the teens whose lives might be transformed through Christian fiction.

(Stepping off soap box now)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Romance Stuff #1 - The Kissing Question

While writing my YA medieval/adventure romance novels, I faced a bit of a moral conundrum. Should I include kissing in books geared toward Christian teens? I don’t think that kissing should be done recreationally or taken lightly. Therefore, in today’s culture, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that sixteen and seventeen-year-olds jump on the kissing bandwagon, and I certainly wouldn’t want younger teenage readers to think that I’m encouraging them to experiment with kissing.

On the other hand, I’m not sure that the “purity” and “courtship” fanatics have gotten this issue right either. Song of Solomon recommends that young women not “awake love before it pleases.” This is smart. Before a young innocent woman becomes awakened sexually, it is pretty easy to stay pure. Once that awakening process has begun, usually through kisses and embraces, it becomes more challenging to maintain godly morals. 

However, I don’t think the honeymoon night is the right time to BEGIN that awakening process either. For one thing, it’s just too late and too much pressure on a bride. In addition, I think that before you make a permanent decision like marriage (among other more important issues) you should at least take into consideration the level of physical attraction. While it is wise to base a relationship on a strong friendship, there also needs to be that reasonable spark of attraction or else marital intimacy could be very awkward. If there is no physical contact (i.e. kissing), that can be hard to assess. So I would say that once you start seriously dating with an eye towards marriage, perhaps in your late teens or early twenties, and once the friendship is on solid ground, kissing is fine. (Okay, let's fact it, kissing is great!)

Which brings me back to my medieval series. The medieval culture was different from our culture today. Girls typically married during their teen years, and my heroines are clearly headed in that direction. So my final decision was that they needed to experience some kisses with their potential mates, and that it would be appropriate to include a bit of kissing in my books. 

Besides, everyone loves a good kiss!

P.S. For a good balanced perspective on the concerns surrounding kissing, check out this article. I especially like the way they continually encourage you to seek guidance from the Holy Spirit. 

What are your views on kissing? Have you been exposed to any of the anti-kissing or courtship schools of thought? How did you feel about it?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Radio Shows, Books Banters, and Strong Heroines

My first radio interview is available online. I think this is a cool way to get to know more about me and Dauntless. Click here to listen.

There is a fun little release party celebrating Dauntless over at Inkwell inspirations. You might want to check that out.

Dauntless is included in this great article on USA Today about medieval fiction. Read it here.

I will also be hosting a Bethany House book banter next Tuesday March 16 from 5-7pm Eastern time on Facebook. Here is a link for the event. 

I visited "Go Teen Writers" this week with an article about creating strong heroines. If you are a fellow writer, you will definitely want to check this one out.

If you're interested in writing book reviews, I offered some tips on Susan Dietze's blog here.

Finally, if you haven't entered the Join the Adventure contest yet, what are you waiting for? $250 amazon card. Need I say more?

Well, I think that's quite enough news for one week. See you again next time!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Beauty for Ashes

Often in interviews I’m asked about the theme of Dauntless. Interviewers probably don’t realize that this is a slightly odd question for a novelist to answer.  Novelists should think about plots and characters. We’re not supposed to focus on themes or messages when writing books. They should arise subtly and organically. It is better to focus on questions than on answers. I admit…for some of my books I did have a theme, or at least a question, in mind from the beginning. 

But for Dauntless, it really did arise naturally from the plot and characters as I wrote the story. Dauntless came to me as the very first prologue scene playing in my mind like a movie. A female Robin Hood type character using her acrobatic, cat-burglar type abilities to rob a passing wagon. And so the story began to unfold. The backdrop, King John’s England in 1216. A sort of historical dystopia with an evil ruler, a corrupt government, and a civil war. Why did Merry become a thief? I decided her father tried to assassinate the king, and so the king tried to decimate everyone in the castle and the surrounding villages, but the children alone escaped, and Merry became their leader.

This book opens against a tragic backdrop. But each of the four main characters face that tragedy in a different way. Merry hardens her heart and does everything in her own strength. Timothy turns to ambition and the letter of the law. Allen presses into God. And our bad guy, well, he lets hatred completely eat away at him. They are all surrounded by the ashes of life. Yet God can turn our ashes into beauty if only we will let him. He can take what the enemy meant for evil and turn it for good. And rest assured, there is plenty of beauty, light, hope, and even laughter in this book.

And so the theme verse became Isaiah 61:3.

To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.

Will Merry learn to soften her heart and allow God and others back in? Will Timothy learn what is truly important in life? Will God alone be enough for Allen? What havoc will our bad guy wreak? Check out Dauntless to find out.

Have you ever faced tragic circumstances in your life? How did you respond? In what ways did God turn your ashes into beauty?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

More Release Week News

I'm so glad I added Wednesdays as news day, because there has been a lot of it, and this week is no exception. Yesterday was the "official" release date of Dauntless. I'm not sure what that really means since it was already available online, but I imagine some bookstores probably waited until that day to put it out. Personally, I celebrated with dishes, grocery shopping, and more writing ;) Oh, and a big bowl of ice cream.

In other cool news, Bethany House is running a wonderful Dauntless giveaway including bows and arrows, a backpack, a beatuiful necklace, and best of all a treasure of a $250 amazon gift card. I wish I could enter!!! So don't miss out.

I am also in Family Fiction Edge this week. Click here and then flip to the first page to find the link to my interview. On second thought, check out the whole magazine. It's pretty interesting, and I am personally looking forward to Jody Hedlund's featured book. Speaking of that...

My book isn't the only great release this week either. Jocelyn Green prepared this fun graphic of some of my releasemates. I think I just made that word up.

Oh, but that's still not all. This showed up on cyberspace this week too. And I've added a Chivalrous page to this blog, so you might want to check that out too.

Okay, I think that's quite enough news for one week. Makes me wonder what excitement next week might have in store.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Medieval Acrobats???

Historical research is tough. Even tougher than finding the right information sometimes, is knowing the right questions to ask. For example, in my first medieval novel I assumed they would have cards and coffee. But when I actually thought to check on those issues, I found out my setting was 50 years too early for either of them to have made their way to England. On the coffee issue, I just changed the drink. On the cards issue, I had a crusader bring them back from the Holy Land.

Dauntless has a fun acrobatic twist. I can't tell you how many times I've read about medieval "acrobats" in historical text books. So, I never thought to ask if the word acrobat actually existed at the time. But right before sending out my final version of Dauntless, my daughter's skepticism about the acrobats prompted me to do a little more last minute research. And...I found out the word "acrobat" actually did not exist in English at that time. They would have been called "tumblers" or possibly "aerialists" if they worked off the ground. When used in military training, acrobatics would have been referred to as "agility skills." Mind you, since they spoke Middle English in 1216, I'm fairly lenient with myself on using words from as late as the 1600s when the language stabilized. But "acrobat" wasn't around until the 1800s. 

In my last minute research I also found this cool video of medieval "tumblers." If they claim to be "acrobats," don't you believe them!