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

Monday, August 31, 2015

Worried about Rosalind???

Early reviews of Chivalrous (officially releasing September 8th, but available in print on amazon now) are starting to come in, and it seems some readers are very worried about Rosalind. Rosalind is my heroine's lady's maid, and she is already well-loved by those who have met her.

How I picture Rosalind, cover to come soon!!!
But without giving away too many spoilers, I leave Rosalind in quite a lurch at the end of book 2. Readers, don't despair. I promise that I love Rosalind as much as you do, and that I have a plan for her. Namely book 3, Courageous. Yes, it's true! Rosalind is the heroine of book 3, so there really is a method to my madness.

Here's the tentative back cover copy for the upcoming third installment in the Valiant Hearts Series...

Rosalind of Ipsworth is haunted by a tragic mistake. A crusade to the Holy Land just might offer her the chance to earn her redemption. Inspired by the vision of the Young Lady Sapphira, Rosalind joins a group of men, women, and children as a defender of the cross, seeking to set captives free from Saracen prisons in the area of Tripoli. She will gladly give herself to the cause of Christ, as she believes she no longer deserves such joys as normal life, marriage, and family might bring.

Sir Randel Penigree was reared for a life in the church and a tonsured scalp, but his own desire is to fight and protect the innocent as a knight. After his stunning defeat at Gravensworth Castle, his parents issue an ultimatum: join the church or be disowned. A crusade to the Holy Land will offer him the opportunity to meet up with the famed Knights Templar to become a warrior monk, finally merging his parents’ wishes with his own.

As they work together to train and protect a group of young adolescents, their hearts begin to heal, and Randel and Rosalind find themselves undeniably drawn to one another. When they face political machinations, danger, and an unknown enemy bent on their destruction, they are forced to reconsider their priorities, and the very nature of the God they serve.

Courageous is coming July 2016. Hopefully Rosalind can hang in there until I can get her out of that rough spot. But she's a pretty tough chick. I think she'll make it.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Me and My Heroines

Often readers confuse an author with the characters they create. I imagine the truth is that each character we write has a hint of us inside of them. But it is also true that professional novelists go to great lengths to create unique and separate characters with distinctive personalities. So today I’m going to share with you how I am both similar to and different from some of my female heroines.

Typical Dina
Let’s start with the general idea of these tough Valiant Hearts heroines I've been working on the last few years. I’ve always been strong, healthy, and athletic, but not quite a tough sporty girl. During my school years I did play some sports, mostly because I went to small Christian schools and everyone needed to be involved. I was pretty good at basketball, but always preferred dance, gymnastics, and cheerleading. As an adult, I like quiet physical activities like walking, biking, hiking, and canoeing. I still dance from time to time as part of my church’s worship dance team. But…I believe in female empowerment and that women should follow whatever path God lays on their hearts. I don’t like to see arbitrary limits put on what girls can and can’t do, and that was very important to me as I wrote this Valiant Hearts Series. My Meyer’s Briggs personality type is INFJ, which in addition to being creative, is also very individualistic and idealistic, so I guess that explains my strong feelings about this issue. And I'm a bit of a romantic.

My Robin Hood-esque Merry Ellison from Dauntless and I actually have very little in common. On the Meyers Briggs scale, Merry was my opposite on three out of four indicators. She is more extroverted, sensory, and thinking. This made Merry the most challenging character I’ve ever written, yet I loved and admired her. Her ESTJ personality was the same as my middle child, my outdoor enthusiast and adrenaline junky. It’s a great leadership personality. I often thought of tough sporty girls I’ve been friends with over the years while writing Merry. Merry and I have a few things in common like a love of children and a love of acrobatics, but even her motivations and inner thoughts were often different than mine. I do have a tomboy side, but it does not go as far as weaponry and hunting. In addition to all of that, tiny, dark haired, exotic Merry is pretty much my physical opposite in every way too. 

Chivalrous with my female knight is releasing soon, and I certainly have more in common with Gwendolyn Barnes than with Merry. I was picturing Gwendolyn as a INFP/ISFP hybrid.  Gwendolyn hates mingling at a big party, much like me, and she loves music, dance, and sunshine, again like me. Her biggest flaw is that she tends to fade into a fantasy world rather than deal with reality, which is something I have been guilty of from time to time, but not to the same degree as Gwendolyn. She has more of a temper than I do, although I share her abhorrence of injustice and can get pretty riled up when faced with it. And again, she is tougher than me, although I think if I had been raised with her hang ups, I might have turned out even more like her. Finally, Gwendolyn’s tall, blonde, and curvy physical description is pretty close to mine at that age. At 5’10” I’m used to looking men in the eye and feeling like I can do anything they can.

How I picture Rosalind
Next on the horizon is Courageous with my crusader heroine. It won’t release until July 2016, but you will be introduced to its main character in Chivalrous. Rosalind of Ipsworth is Gwendolyn’s lady’s maid, best friend, and partner in crime. Of the three Valiant Hearts heroines so far, I definitely have the most in common with Rosalind. With her ENFJ personality, she is more of a typical emotional, romantic girl, although she is tough enough to rise to whatever occasion is thrown at her. She’s more outgoing than me, and she makes some unfortunate choices that my upbringing protected me from. But her thoughts, speech, and motivations are pretty similar to what I imagine mine being in those circumstances. And Rosalind is a passionate woman, which is also a trait I share. 

Passion is a characteristic that is often avoided in Christian heroines, and yet a characteristic I think God highly values when channeled in the right direction. In fact, I’ve used the ENFJ personality for two other heroines in the past. Both Dandelion in Dance of the Dandelion and Constance in Love in Three-Quarter Time are feisty, passionate heroines as well. Each makes mistakes, like Rosalind, but each learns to channel that passion toward an intimate relationship with God. My daughter has an ENFJ personality, and I have loved watching her grow in her passion toward God.

Maybe you’re wondering if I’ve ever written myself into a book. I would say the closest I’ve come is with Allie, my Christian ballerina in Dance from Deep Within. She shares my INFJ personality, my love of dance and reading, my blonde coloring, and many of my experiences. Her thoughts, tastes, opinions, fashion sensibilities, and beliefs certainly mirror mine, especially when I was her age. But of course her life is different than mine in some ways too, and her experiences are more extreme, including a trauma I didn’t share. Still, I would say if you want to know what I’m all about, Allie would provide the best clues.

So that’s me and my heroines. I hope you’ve enjoyed this quick foray into our personalities.

Which of my heroines do you think you would relate with the most? What is your personality like?

Monday, August 17, 2015

What is YA Fiction???

(As first seen on Seekerville)

picture from
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere, I’m sure you’ve heard that YA fiction is all the rage. Books like The Hunger GamesDivergentThe Fault in Our Stars, and Twilight have not only taken the world by storm, but have also been made into blockbuster movies. Even the Christian market has been opening to YA fiction. But what exactly does “Young Adult” fiction mean, and how does it differ from regular adult fiction? That’s precisely what I had to figure out when I started working on my new Valiant Hearts Series from Bethany House a few years ago. Here’s a little of what I learned to help introduce you to the world of YA fiction.

Know Your Age Range - The age range for these so-called “Young Adult” books is typically about 12-18, although these days many of the books are crossing over and having success with adults as well. Younger than that (aimed at 10-13) is called “Middle Grade,” and a new, slightly older category (aimed at 18-25) called “New Adult” has recently emerged. So be sure to know which group you are writing for, and keep in mind that kids love to read about characters a few years ahead of them in life. So the typical age range for main characters in YA books is around 15-19.

Don’t Talk Down – There is no need to dumb down your thought processes or language choices when writing for teens. Considering that a newspaper is written at a fifth grade level, teens should be well able to handle whatever you toss at them. The last thing they want is for you to treat them like children. In fact, because teens are used to reading challenging literature in school, they are actually much more willing to tackle tough subjects and vocabulary than their adult counterparts. While adults are often looking for fluffy entertainment, teens love to learn and grow through fictional experiences.

Through a Teen’s Eyes - The primary difference between adult and teen fiction is in the perspective.  Remember, your main characters should be teenagers, and teens don’t see things the way adults see them. They are questioning the status quo, figuring themselves out, and trying to find their place in the world. They have the intelligence of an adult, but not quite the wisdom or maturity. When writing teen fiction, you must take yourself back to those days, or attempt to view the world through the eyes of your daughter, granddaughter, niece, teenage neighbor, etc... Also, be sure to understand the teen culture of your chosen time period. If you try to tackle a contemporary young adult novel, you will face the extra challenge of grasping the lingo, the styles, and the popular trends without seeming “lame.”

Keep the Pace Fast – While books like The Hunger Games and The Fault in Our Stars clearly demonstrate that teens are willing to read about tough issues, politics, and even philosophy, the pace should be fast and punchy. The descriptions are quick and tightly woven into the other elements of the scene. The conversations are fast paced and often witty. The books are full of action and excitement, twists and turns. I sometimes joke that teen novels are just like adult novels—only more exciting!

Get Real and Raw – As I mentioned, teens are interested in learning about the world through fiction. But not some fake, fluffy, sugar-coated world!!! Not something oversimplified or didactic. They can get all of that in children’s literature. No, they want to understand the real world in all its raw, gritty glory. Often, they will experience issues (and learn how to think and feel about them) in fiction long before they will in real life. They want you to tell them the truth, guide them, but ultimately let them make their own judgments.

Tools to Face the World – Teens want to be ready to face the world of adults. Top teen fiction issues include identity, sexuality, drug and alcohol abuse, poverty, suicide, prejudice, depression, bullying, corrupt politics, family struggles, etc… Serious, real-world stuff! Hopefully they aren’t actually dealing with these issues, although some are, but they want to be prepared when the time comes. If you are a Christian writer, what could be better than introducing these challenging sorts of issues from a godly perspective?

Romance but More – Teens love romance. Especially teen girls. As I mentioned, the awakening of sexuality is a major theme in YA literature. This does not mean having sex, it means learning to understand their bodies and the strange new feelings and sensations they are experiencing. It means making good decisions about the sexual and romantic parts of life at a time when they are often fumbling, giddy, and full of angst over boys.  However, in keeping with the fast pace and grittiness I mentioned, most teen romances offer more than just romance. You will typically find romance mixed with adventure, sci-fi, dystopia, fantasy, suspense, or tough contemporary issues.  So offer your teen reader romance, but also give them something more.

That wraps up the major differences between teen and adult fiction. I think as secular teen fiction becomes darker and more liberal, the market for Christian teen fiction will continue to grow. Likewise as more Christian adult readers discover this entertaining genre, they will boost sales and open even more doors for YA in the future.

For a great database of Christian teen fiction visit

What are some of your favorite young adult books? Come on, ’fess up, we know you love them!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Chivalrous Pre-Order Special!!!

Chivalrous releases in less than a month! Which means that now is the perfect time to pre-order to get it hot off the press. In fact, while I can't make any promises, often people who pre-order the print books online find it in their mailboxes weeks before the official release. And yes, ebooks are also available for pre-order on amazon and barnesandnoble. They should magically appear on your kindle or nook September 8th.

So here's my special offer. If you pre-order Chivalrous, and message some sort of confirmation of the order along with you home address to me by facebook messenger or email, in return I will send you a small package of Valiant Hearts "swag," including a Dauntless button, a Valiant Hearts key chain, bookmarks, and post cards. Find me on facebook here.

Want to read a free sample first? No problem. Click here. 

Let the pre-order party begin!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Me and Acrobatics

One of the funnest elements of Dauntless, in my opinion, is the acrobatic twist. Although as I mention in another post, they didn't actually use the word acrobat at that time, tumblers and aerialists provided popular entertainment during the middle ages. You might wonder if I have any acrobatic background myself, and the answer is yes. I took gymnastics from the ages of 6-11. I never quite reached Merry's level of expertise, but I could do a front flip and front and back handsprings, so I understand the rush of flying through the air. In high school, I also used my gymnastics ability as a cheerleader.

I don't do much acrobatics anymore, but all three of my children are incredible acrobats. Just for fun, here is my farewell acrobatic performance. If you're having a hard time finding me, I'm tall with shoulder length blond hair, and at some point my son stands on my shoulders. I'm guessing this was around 2008. My two older kids are the ones doing the fancy tricks. Gymnastics fans, notice the lovely back flip by my son at about 2:16. :) My youngest was still too little for choreography at the time, but at age 12, he is now a competitive gymnast.

If you would like to learn more about me as a dance, choreographer, and director, click here to visit that page on my main website.

Everything About You from danzingfool on GodTube.