Once people discover I’m an author, they inevitably ask how I got published. I think everyone is hoping for a rags to riches story. When I start talking about the hard work of writing, their reactions vary between eyes glazing over, eyes filling with sympathy, or eyes filling with fear.
It’s those fear-filled eyes I want to address today. Those are the eyes of a secret writer: Someone who wishes they could be published one day, but sees little hope in the dream so they don’t dare hope. I used to have those eyes.
Some eighteen years ago, I began writing my first novel. I’d written a lot of short stories and loads of fan fiction (if you don’t know what that is, no worries. Those who do will nod. It’s a conversation for another time). But a novel was this seemingly insurmountable mountain. Many years and many drafts later, I had what I considered to be a brilliant piece of work and didn’t have a clue what to do with it. So I began searching on the internet for ways to contact publishers. Little did I know you needed an agent to do that, and in order to get an agent you had to be published. Talk about frustrating! And then, one publishing company took pity on me and wrote suggesting I find a local writer’s conference.
Writing conferences were an unknown to me. As I’d written an inspirational fiction novel, I figured I should find a Christian conference to attend. So I searched for OREGON CHRISTIAN WRITERS and low and behold, a group with that very name existed!
Do you know what I did? I said a quick prayer and wrote directly to them. Sue Miholer, of Oregon Christian Writers, wrote me right back and told me about their summer conference and suggested I attend.
And that, dear friends, is how I began this writing-toward-publication-life. Now my first novel wasn’t published. Neither was the next one (although I had publishers ask to read it, so I knew I was on the right track). BUT the third one was. You know that novel as Jasmine. I wouldn’t have ever been published, however, if I hadn’t honed my craft, studied the market, networked with other authors, found beta readers, joined a critique group, practiced pitching to professionals, and approached agents and publishers in person (the only place you can do that is at conferences!). ALL of those previous things were offered to me through my local writer’s conference.
My favorite writer’s conference, Oregon Christian Writers, is now registering for their 4 day summer coaching conference. So if you’ve ever dreamed of telling a story, writing articles, and being in print, now’s your chance to get serious about that dream.
Oregon Christian Writers
Come join us as we encourage one another in pursuing the dream God has planted in our hearts. Click here to register: http://oregonchristianwriters.org/sc2016-vision-voice/ .
I hope to see you there!
Some time back I interviewed Dina after reading her novel Dance from Deep Within (click here to read the interview again). Today, I’m excited to invite Dina as a guest poster to share about her new release, a young adult series called Valiant Hearts. I’m just starting Dauntless now, and it’s excellent. Please give a warm welcome to 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!
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 Hearts 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. Click HERE for more information.
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. Click HERE for more info and to preorder.
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. http://valiantheartsseries.blogspot.com/
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 Time, Dance 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.Read More
2 Corinthians 12: 9-10 But he (Jesus) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
I won an award this week at the Oregon Christian Writers Summer conference. It’s an award for being a Writer of Promise. It’s actually an award I thought would be very cool to win, but never expected to hear my name associated with it. In fact, I was so surprised to hear my name, all the blood rushed out of my extremities. I have no knowledge of how I got up those stairs and onto that stage. I remember very little about what I said, and only have a vague recollection of sitting down in my seat again. But I did because God enabled me to. In fact, God enables me to do everything I do. He’s enabling you, too, but you might not be aware to what extent. I am acutely aware.
Here’s what I would have said on that stage if I’d had more time and had my wits better about me. Maybe I said it and don’t remember. If you were there, I pray you saw it in my eyes: my complete unworthiness, my gratefulness, and my boast in the Lord:
I can do nothing without God. Really. I am chronically ill with a rare disease that leaves my body “fighting” germs 24/7. I get up every day with body aches and a fuzzy head, not walking straight, not sure of what I can take on. I’m exhausted because of the fight. Have you had the flu? Yeah, like that–pretty much all the time. At this week’s conference, I was heading back to my room every four hours for breathing treatments. I planned my classes, my meetings, around these treatments, around rests, around plenty of downtime. I almost didn’t make it to OCW, let alone the dinner and awards ceremony, because I’d been so sick. My medical treatment for my condition is done on Tuesday evenings, and 98 percent of Wednesdays, I’m down all day. I’m certainly not dressed up, on my feet, attending classes and going to late night galas. I shouldn’t have been at the dinner. In fact, I was due for a breathing treatment RIGHT in the middle of the awards ceremony. I was going to have to leave. But my lungs didn’t spasm with an asthma flare, so I stayed. And that’s when I got the most amazing surprise of my career (outside of my first book contract).
As I heard the kudos for the last award of the night, I prepared to clap for whoever it was. Then, I suddenly realized (via some clues) that the presenter, Lindy Jacobs, was talking about me! Although we were in a room of several hundred people, right then, it was just me and the Father. Because all I do, all I accomplish, all I write, all my steps are from Him. Literally. He carried me up those steps, He got me back to my seat. He got me through photos and lots of lovely hugs, and then back up that long hallway to my room where I cried and stayed awake in awe and humility into the wee hours. He stayed up with me, too. People often ask me why I write about my illness on my blog, why I share so openly when asked. THIS is why. I want you to see it’s not me, it’s Him. I want you to see how He loves us. I want you to see how involved He is in every aspect of our lives. He is my strength, my portion, my motivation. My all in all. And I’m so grateful.Read More