Thursday, March 5, 2015

Meet Author Dina Sleiman

From Bethany House Publishers
Katniss Everdeen and Tris Prior, prepare to meet your historical counterparts!

Hello and thanks for having me today. I would like to share with you about my YA inspirational medieval adventure/romance series. Yeah, that’s a lot of adjectives. LOL. This series is pretty unique, especially in the Christian market, and so requires quite a bit of description. But let me start by sharing a little of how it came about. A few summers ago I saw a picture of a female knight, strong and courageous, bold and valiant, and I realized that somewhere in my many years of marriage and raising children, I had lost my fight. And you know what: I wanted it back!

Photo by Silly Little Sparrow
Meanwhile, I had been considering trying my hand at a young adult medieval romance series for several years, but I didn’t have a strong idea. Quite a few more months would pass before everything came together for me. I was walking and praying about a series concept, when the BBC’s new Robin Hood came to mind with its bold Maid Marian who is a crusader for the poor in her own right, its female Djaq, and its tough villainesses. That’s when it hit me. Put strong, young medieval women in legendary male roles, et voila, my Valiant Hears Series was born.

I’m so thankful for this opportunity to create strong and courageous role models for young women. I feel that all too often Christian girls are sent mixed messages. “You can be whatever you want to be, but you should be…” (insert small box of your denominational choosing here.) I want to inspire young women to be all that they can be and empower them to reach their full potential in Christ.

“What is a Valiant Heart heroine?” you might ask. A young woman who is both feminine and strong, vulnerable and tough, gentle and passionate. She is fearless, intelligent, and full of life. A heroine who contains within her both the tender beauty of a blossoming flower and the fierceness of a lioness. One who uniquely reflects her creator God and is willing to pursue her dreams with all her heart. A woman who is open to love, but not defined by a man.

Each book in the Valiant Hearts Series will feature a strong, young medieval woman in a traditionally male role as she lives out a story of adventure, romance, and faith. The series is geared toward teens, but will appeal to adults as well

Shown above is Merry Ellison, my heroine for the Robin Hood inspired Dauntless. Merry will go to any length to save the outlawed children of Ellsworth from the treacherous King John. Dauntless is available now online, as an ebook, and in local bookstores.

In book 2, Chivalrous, Gwendolyn Barnes longs to be a knight, but such cannot be her fate, even in the Camelot inspired region where she dwells. Meanwhile, her father intends to use her as a marriage pawn. In this story that flips the Lancelot/Guinevere legend on its head, Gwendolyn struggles with issues of gender and worth as well as her faith in God. Chivalrous is available for pre-order online and will release in September.

My heroine Rosalind for book 3 (working title Relentless) has a role in book 2 as well. I'm picturing Katie McGrath from the series Merlin. She serves as Gwendolyn's handmaid in book 2, but in book 3 she will face her own adventure as she goes on crusade in search of redemption. I just started writing this one, and it will be fun to see where this story takes me.

And I have ideas for more: pirates, body guards, spies, even a quest!

I hope you will consider giving my Valiant Hearts Series a try, or perhaps purchasing it for some special young woman in your life! And please join me on my Valiant Hearts blog to stay in touch.


Dina Sleiman writes stories of passion and grace. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Since finishing her Professional Writing MA in 1994, she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. Her debut novel, Dance of the Dandelion with Whitefire Publishing, won an Honorable Mention in the 2012 Selah Awards. Also look for her novels, Love in Three-Quarter TimeDance from Deep Within, and her Valiant Hearts series with Bethany House Publishers. Dina serves as an acquisitions editor for WhiteFire Publishing as well, and she loves to teach at writers conferences throughout the US.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Cover Reveal: The Lost Heiress by Roseanna M. White

For an author, seeing that first glimpse of your very own book cover is unforgettable.

Roseanna White, author of the exciting Culper Ring Series and A Stray Drop of Blood, has a new book coming out in September, and I'm so happy to share the cover!

I simply love this cover! With Roseanna White, you always get a great read rich with historical detail. I can't wait to read this book.

Here's a little bit of info on The Lost Heiress:

Brook Eden has never known where she truly belongs. Though raised in the palace of Monaco, she’s British by birth and was brought to the Grimaldis under suspicious circumstances as a babe. When Brook’s friend Justin uncovers the fact that Brook is likely a missing heiress from Yorkshire, Brook leaves the sun of the Mediterranean to travel to the moors of the North Sea to the estate of her supposed family.

The mystery of her mother’s death haunts her, and though her father is quick to accept her, the rest of the family and the servants of Whitby Park are not. Only when Brook’s life is threatened do they draw close—but their loyalty may come too late to save Brook from the same threat that led to tragedy for her mother.

As heir to a dukedom, Justin is no stranger to balancing responsibilities. When the matters of his estate force him far from Brook, the distance between them reveals that what began as friendship has grown into something much more. But how can their very different loyalties and responsibilities ever come together?

And then, for a second time, the heiress of Whitby Park is stolen away because of the very rare treasure in her possession—and this time only the servants of Whitby can save her.

About Roseanna M. White

Roseanna M. White pens her novels beneath her Betsy Ross flag, with her Jane Austen action figure watching over her. When not writing fiction, she’s homeschooling her two children, editing and designing, and pretending her house will clean itself. The Lost Heiress is Roseanna’s tenth published book. Her novels range from biblical fiction to American-set romances to her new British series. She lives with her family in West Virginia. Learn more at


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Friday, April 18, 2014

Easter Blessings

Wishing each of you, and your families, a most blessed and glorious Easter. And to those who are hurting right now, it is my deepest prayer that you feel God's peace and healing presence wash over you as you're bathed in His love.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Wait Expectantly

Before 2013 was even at a close, I had the word I wanted to focus on for the new year already picked out. Or at least I thought I did. Now I can’t even remember what that word was.

But one night in late December, I went to bed feeling something that is difficult for Christians to admit to: fear. There was a situation in my life that needed fixing. I couldn’t see any possible way for it could be fixed. And yet, I knew that in spite of it, I couldn’t spend my time feeling fearful.

That’s counter-productive. It also puts a barrier between me and God. I couldn’t put my full faith and trust in him if I was feeling fear. But this isn’t a judgment on anyone who feels fear. We are all human, and our development of faith and trust is between us and God. For me, there was a barrier.

And the fear was making me sick; both physically and emotionally. I had to figure out a way to deal with it. As I prayed out each of my fears to God, a word came to my mind. 


I didn’t know why it came to mind. I just knew if it came to me while I prayed, I needed to give it some consideration. As I did, some of the almost crippling fear that had gripped me for way too long began to ease. Not that the situation was fixed, by any means, but for the first time, I didn’t feel as afraid.

To be clear, I never doubted God would be there for me. But I was afraid of what would happen if the situation wasn’t fixed. 

That might seem a little contradictory, but I can’t explain it any better than this: I don’t think knowing he’s always there for me is the same as knowing I will never have to experience pain or unpleasantness. And no one wants to experience pain of any sort, and when we’re faced with it, it’s kind of scary. Sometimes, it’s a lot scary.

After much thought and a little more prayer, with the word still whispering around in my mind, I determined that I should wait expectantly and see what God would do to help in this situation. More of the anxiety and fear began to ease, and I went to sleep feeling almost excited to see just how everything would play out.

Excited, not fearful. Even now, I marvel at the thought.

The next morning, for the first time in a long time, I didn’t wake up with a feeling of dread. I spent some time that morning searching the Bible, because for my fears to ease the way they did, there was no doubt the word expectantly was from God. This is what I found:

Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my sighing.
Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray.
In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; 
in the morning I lay my requests before your and wait in expectation. 
~~Psalm 5: 1-3 

Wait in expectation. 

I’ve seen this scripture before. I think I’ve always thought of it as “I will pray and expect you to answer,” almost as if I should expect the answer to be what I want. But on this day, on this morning, I saw it differently. I viewed the phrase “wait in expectation” much like a mother waiting for her child to be born. There’s excitement in that, eagerness, an air of “I can hardly wait”.  

The moment I had that realization, I claimed that scripture as my own for the year. Not just a word for to focus on for the year, but an entire scripture. And not long after that, on that very same morning, the first of many blessings came. By the end of the day, I began to wonder just how many times God could bless a person in one day. Now, at the end of January, exactly thirty days later, I’m wondering how many times he could bless a person in one month.

Our God is such an amazing God, and tonight I am so very thankful that he loves us more than we can even imaging loving our own children.

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Fresh Taste of History

Who remembers this?
This was my first introduction to pineapple. It was sweet and juicy, and oh-so-good. But as an adult, when I had my first bite of the non-syrup soaked freshly sliced yellow goodness, I decided the canned stuff just didn’t compare.

Pineapple is part of the bromeliaceae family, a species of plants with foliage that grows like a rosette shaped crown. In the case of a pineapple, the long spiked leaves are tightly woven and capable of storing water. Native to South America, it’s said to have first been found in Peru, Paraguay and parts of Brazil. Over time, the pineapple spread throughout South and Central America and eventually ended up in the West Indies.

There is a lot of conflicting, but interesting and fun, information about pineapple history.

Anana - Excellent Fruit!
Some credit Christopher Columbus with its introduction to Europe. It was a staple on sailing ships, because like the orange, it could prevent scurvy. Over time, it ended up in the West Indies, where it was celebrated and became known as anana.

I always thought pineapple came to the US by way of Hawaii, but apparently it was brought to New England on those same sailing ships that carried it to the West Indies – where George Washington grew them in his hothouse.

It was two-hundred years ago, January, 1813 – some say the 21st, and some say the 11th – that the pineapple made its way to Hawaii. It was brought and cultivated by Don Francisco de Paula y Marin, a Spanish interpreter and advisor to King Kamehameha. Don Francisco de Paula y Marin was an interesting man who is well worth researching.

Portrait by Louis-Jules Masselot (1815-1879)
Nearly a century after Don Francisco introduced the pineapple to Hawaii, another man came into the picture. James Drummond Dole established the first pineapple plantation in Wahiawa. Today, the name Dole is synonymous with the pineapple.

Pineapple’s Hawaiian name is halakahiki – foreign fruit.
Whichever day the pineapple arrived in Hawaii, Dole cultivated it into a dietary staple. And I’d like to think that it’s due to both Dole and Don Francisco that we can now enjoy one of Disneyland’s tastiest treats, the Dole Whip™!

Happy 200th Birthday to Hawaii's Halakahiki!

I love to collect odd bits of news, and in an amusing bit of coincidence, the polar bear at the Chicago Zoo is named Anana. I know this because he’s the bear that made news last week when the polar vortex rendered it too cold for even a polar bear. (I’m not sure why that was news since he’s obviously been acclimated to Chicago.) Do you think the powers-that-be at the zoo knew when they named him Anana, that they were naming a polar bear after a tropical fruit?

Have you ever had that scrumptious dessert known as a Dole Whip™?

Am I the only one who likes to read odd news?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Empathy, Imagination, and Deep Point of View

Inborn empathy, I believe, is a gift from God. Some people have it, and some people don’t.

But can you learn empathy if you don’t already have it? I think it’s safe to say most of us have imaginations. And if, as a writer, you can touch the surface of your imagination, then you can keep going deeper until you feel whatever it is you want your characters (and consequently your readers) to feel. 

That’s empathy.

Have you ever wondered how an actor cries on demand?
photo by djayo at
Some actors have drops squeezed into their eyes as soon as the camera pans away, so that on their next close-up they can squeeze the tears out. I’ve heard some pinch the inside of their leg. 

But other actors cry real tears that touch deep and very raw emotions. I heard one actress say that whenever she had to cry, she thought about her father and imagined what her life would be like if he died. Her imagination led her to empathy. Those are the scenes that reach out and grab the viewers by their heart-strings.

Because they’re real.

Writing, like acting, must touch something deep in the reader, whether it’s joy or sorrow, in order to give them a satisfying experience.

photo by rolve at
In my upcoming novel, True North, Joe and Lisa Kendall are grieving the loss of their son. Each is grieving in their own way; each in their own time. As a writer, it is my job to put the reader into either Joe or Lisa’s shoes – maybe both. But I’ve never lost a child that I’ve held in my arms. I did have the broken heart of a miscarriage followed shortly by a hysterectomy at a very young age, losing the dream of future children. I know what those feelings are like. But I don’t know the feeling of losing a child I’ve held close to my heart, and built memories with.

How then could I represent this in an honest and true way in my writing? It had to be more than thinking, “Oh, I’ll bet they feel this way and they’ll react in this other way.” No. I had to dig deep inside myself, hit a few nerves, then dig deeper still. I had to imagine the early years with my own child, and then imagine the unthinkable.
photo by buzzybee at
It wasn’t easy. It was beyond painful. Then, because my hero’s viewpoint is important to the story, I had to do it all over again through the eyes and heart of a father. I still get a little teary-eyed when I think about all I’d imagined. But if I didn’t bring a tear to my own eyes, how could I possibly bring one to the reader’s eyes?

This could, I think, also be referred to as deep point of view. I really never thought of it that way until recently. After the final edits and galley proofs were done on True North, I had a moment of panic when I realized my characters had a lot of internal thought. Maybe it was too much. Would that read as boring? I didn’t know what to do. But when I asked my editor about it, she said she and the publisher had a discussion about it when they first bought the book. They felt it was deep point of view and was necessary to the story because of the grieving process that became part of the conflict.

I had to think about this for a while. And I still wonder. Did my imagination lead me to empathy? Did I reach this deep point of view that will elicit a tear from my readers? I hope so. It made me cry, and – not that I want the reader to feel real pain – I hope it brings a tear or two to their eyes so they come away with a complete and satisfying experience from the book.

If you’re a writer and your manuscript doesn’t feel right, could it be that it isn’t touching your emotions? If so, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer. Try deepening your imagination, dig a little deeper, and see if that changes your story up.

Do you think empathy and imagination are tied together?
What gives you a satisfying experience as a reader?
If you’re a writer, how far do you go to elicit emotion in your characters?

True North is Suzie Johnson’s second novel. Her first novel, No Substitute, a contemporary inspirational novel, is out now from White Rose Press of The Pelican Book Group. She is a regular contributor to the Inkwell Inspirations blog, a member of ACFW, RWA, and is the cancer registrar at her local hospital. Suzie and her husband live in the 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Strong Women in History: Violet Constance Jessop

When the White Star Line unveiled their plan for a trans-Atlantic ocean liner passenger service, they most assuredly couldn’t envision the tragedy that would befall all three of their ocean liners.

Knowing what we know about the way Titanic met her end; imagine what it would be like to be a young woman serving as a stewardess on the ship. But first we must go even further back into history.

October 1, 1887, and Irish couple living in Argentina welcomed their first of six children, a baby girl – Violet Constance Jessop. Even as a young child Violet was a survivor, winning a fight over tuberculosis even though doctors said she wouldn’t. Perhaps this was a foreshadowing of what was to come, but more likely it was the hand of God because Violet had important work ahead of her.

When Violet’s father died, her mother moved her family to England and went to work as a ship’s stewardess for the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company. Later, Violet herself would begin her eventful career on the same line. Research finds that this line served many purposes, among them delivering mail to the British West Indies and carrying passengers – immigrants especially – to places like New Zealand.

In 1910, Violet left Red Mail to work for White Line. She did it somewhat reluctantly, due to rumors of the passengers’ treatment of staff and the fact that White Line traveled the North Atlantic. She didn’t care for the weather conditions they would surely encounter. More foreshadowing? Or the hand of God?

On September 20, 1911, White Line’s RMS Olympic left port and Violet was aboard as one of its stewardesses. Almost right away, the navy cruiser HMS Hawke rammed the Olympic and left a forty-foot gash in her side. The propellers were damaged, but the ship made it back to port without sinking.

When the RMS Titanic, the Olympic’s sister ship, was ready for her maiden voyage, Violet was in place as one of the stewardesses – as she’d been talked in to switching ships by one of her friends. The night the ship hit the iceberg, Violet was “drowsy” in her bunk after having read a translated Hebrew prayer she brought along on her journey. The prayer was for protection against fire and water.

Violet stood at the bulkhead with the other stewardesses while women said tearful goodbyes to their husbands before stepping into the lifeboats with their children. In order to ease the fears of some of the female passengers, Violet and other stewardesses were asked to get into a lifeboat. While sitting there, a bundle was, as she described it, dropped in her lap with orders to take care of it. The bundle turned out to be a baby that Violet guarded with her life. Later, while on the rescue ship Carpathia, a woman claiming to be the baby’s mother snatched the baby out of Violet’s arms.

Surviving the ordeal that was the Titanic would have been enough for most women to walk away from anything to do with boats and water. But not Violet. She eventually ended up on the HMHS Britannic – which was originally named the Gigantic because, as hard as it is to believe, the Titanic’s other sister ship was much larger.

The Britannic wasn’t in service as an ocean liner for very long before WWI began and it was put in to use as a hospital ship. By then Violet was a Red Cross nurse, taking care of the war’s injured and sick men on the Britannic.

But surely Violet’s time aboard the Britannic would be uneventful? Unfortunately, no.

In 1916, just over four years after her Titanic sister sank, the Britannic struck a German mine in the Aegean Sea – with Violet aboard.

Accounts differ on how Violet ended up in the water. Some state she jumped overboard because there was no time for lifeboats. Others state she jumped out of the lifeboat to avoid being sucked into the propellers. However she ended up in the water, Violet hit her head on the ship’s hull and was knocked unconscious.

Thankfully she was rescued and amazingly, once again, remained undeterred by tragedy on the water. After the war, Violet went back to the White Line and the Olympic. Later she joined the Red Star line and spent the rest of her career cruising the world.

Three sister ships, the Olympic, the Titanic, and the Britannic, all involved in disaster of different proportions; one woman of faith who survived all three. Coincidence? Providence? Whichever it was, Violet’s is an incredible story of survival.

Do you think Violet was placed on the Titanic for the purpose of saving the baby?

What about the Hebrew prayer? Do you think Violet was saved by faith?

If you experienced a tragedy like the Titanic hitting the iceberg, would you go to work on an even larger ship? Or would you even go on a boat at all?