Monday, September 29, 2014

Creating an author's media kit

Something came up this week: A blogger/reviewer requested a media (or press) kit to accompany a blog post and left me feeling a bit unprepared. Why? Because I don't have one!

Promotion and marketing is a challenge for many of us, and the more prepared and equipped we can be to manage the process the better.

What is a media kit?
At the newspaper, a media kit included a spec sheet (with the size of our paper, publication frequency, circulation details, and more number specifics), a copy of the most recent paper and other special publications, and a rate card with our advertising rates. My fellow prologue chapter members added the following wisdom from their own experiences in advertising and publishing: A press release, an author bio and photo, social media links, and an "interview." Additional research indicates we should also include the ISBN and cover photos of our books, testimonials or reviews, and samples of our writing.

All of this indicates we should invest ourselves in a comprehensive package, complete with bookmarks and fliers and business cards, whether we create that package ourselves or hire someone to do it. That package should represent our personal "brand."

Back in the day, a publishing house or an agent or a publicist might have done all that for us, but now we have the opportunity to do it for ourselves!

That said, I have a hard time discerning literary themes in books (even my own), much less figuring out my personal identifying theme. One of the reasons I've never gotten a tattoo is because I can't figure out what word or symbol I want on my body for the rest of my life.

Which leads us to another discussion... What's your brand? *SIGH* I still haven't come up with a brand for my writing, and I've been working on it for years. Literally, years.

Do you have a slogan? A logo? A style? How did you come up with it? Does it make you feel trapped, or secure?

(Here are some resources about creating press/media kits:


Niki TurnerACFW Colorado Coordinator
From Western Slope ACFW Prologue Chapter: Creating an author's media kit

Friday, September 26, 2014

Sadie's Gift - Book Recommendation

a book review by Debra E. Marvin

Niki Turner’s recently released novella SADIE'S GIFT (99cent E book – here’s a link!) immediately brings the reader into a cold, snowy 1921 Colorado City and the bustle of last-minute Christmas shopping. One minute, heroine Sadie Hubbard is pawning a beloved family heirloom to give sick children a happy holiday and the next minute she’s watching an out-of-control Model T skidding to avoid her.

And here we meet Nathan Wells.

It’s not really a ‘cute meet’ as far as romances go, and indeed, our blue-eyed hero is anything but charming. But Nathan has just lost his brother to the horror of tuberculosis, and he’s angry.  The new damage to that brother’s much-cherished car isn’t exactly Christmas cheer.

Though the story deals with loss , I promise you’ll find it a sweet, uplifting read, easily enjoyed in a few hours’ time. The setting details pulled me in and the characters kept me there. Sadie can’t see what a strong, determined woman she is. Each day, she watches children face the uncertainties of life in a Preventorium, and rather than let it lessen her faith, it drives it. Her selflessness softens our irritable hero’s heart and helps him out of the isolation of his grief. And he's going to need that to help save Christmas.

A rich cast of secondary characters made Sadie’s Heart feel like a favorite Christmas movie that you’d watch again and again!

This is the first of the Christmas Traditions series that I’ve read and I look forward to catching more of them over the next few weeks.  If you missed it, here is a link to the Sadie's Gift Release Party (More on the story and the author)

I'm giving away a copy of Sadie's Gift for Kindle! If you'd like to be in the drawing, please say so in your comment and leave your email address safely like this yournameOrWhatever (at) . (yes, I'm such a big spender!)

Congratulations, Niki Turner! A sweet start with more stories to come!

Niki Turner        Niki's Blog: In Truer Ink

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

'Til Death Do Us Part

By Lisa Karon Richardson
One of the most rewarding payoffs for romance readers is to read about the hero and heroine’s wedding. And since this week is all weddings all the time what better time to highlight some of the best weddings in fiction.

1.     Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe-LM Montgomery built the romantic tension between those two for four entire books. The wedding scene in The House of Dreams isn’t terribly long, but it is incredibly sweet and just perfect.

2.     Irene Adler and Godfrey Norton-Who you say? Irene Adler was “the” woman, according to Sherlock Holmes. He is following Irene on behalf of the king of Bohemia when she sneaks into a church. In full disguise, Sherlock follows her only to be pressed into service as a witness at her marriage to a lawyer, named Godfrey. Love the irony, and through Caroline Nelson Douglas’s novels I got to see exactly what Irene saw in Godfrey.

3.     Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester-The wedding that wasn’t. I know it’s a trope now to have someone prevent the wedding at the last second, but think how shocking it was when the story first came out. You can’t stop turning pages after that for sure. How were they ever going to get together?

What about you? What books had your favorite weddings? What did you like about them? Weddings in books seem to be harder to come by than weddings in movies, so do you have a favorite movie wedding?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sadie's Gift Release Party


SADIE'S GIFT is available as one of the short and sweet 
stories in the Christmas Traditions Series. 

99cents!  buy Now Ebook

Niki's first release has given us a chance to celebrate and throw a virtual party that's a little bit Christmas and a little bit dress-up party.  Think Colorado Springs, 1921 and a chilly Christmas Eve!  Pick something warm to wear, though you won't even have to go out in the cold! Just imagine blue skies, freshly falling snow and a coat your grandmother or great-grandmother would have worn.

Keeping it casual, ladies. "This old thing?"
Our heroine Sadie Hubbard is a nurse at a Preventorium where children faced the possibility they'd contracted or would contract Tuberculosis. Niki introduced us to this world in her Inkwell post about Preventoriums, Sanitariums and Tuberculosis.

Hero Nathan Wells has lost a brother to this terrible disease and is on his way back home. Guess what? He doesn't make it out of the city before fate and Father Christmas (and Father God) do a little number on his heart.

1920s Colorado Springs
It might be worth going out in the snow just to wear these boots!

I have photos of my grandmother looking somewhat similar. hmmm. I think I'll borrow this outfit!
We're staying with simple homey comfort foods, so come in out of the cold and join us as we celebrate SADIE'S GIFT! Two other Inkies,Gina Welborn and Jennifer AlLee  (as well as other friends) have novellas in the Christmas Traditions series, so I'm already picking my cookie recipes for our cookie exchange. 

Not sure how this gentleman, Ryan Paevey, found himself serving hot chocolate, but he assures us it's the real deal, creamy whole milk, cocoa powder and sugar.   YUM!  I seem to be spilling my cocoa. Sorry.

This is the real deal pudding too. More chocolate! Stove top made with scalded milk, separated eggs... nothing like it! Go ahead and try it. Granny will let you lick the spoon!

Please join us in congratulating Niki and while you're at it, will you consider donating some toys to children in hospitals in your area?

For more on Niki Turner, visit her personal blog IN TRUER INK, and her Pinterest Page for Sadie's Gift.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Got Cukes? Make Relish

by Anita Mae Draper

Back before I was writing as a profession, Sept always brought kitchen counters full of preserving jars - empty or full or both. Now with only our youngest at home, I'd rather use my time crafting stories and working on genealogy than spending hours stressing over anti-garden-growing weather followed by hours of cleaning and preparing produce and jars. Since my husband was raised without a garden and the season of preserving which followed it he never understood my 'hoarding food' passion when we could buy everything we wanted in the store. This meant it wasn't a big loss when I quit.

But sometimes I miss it.

I love walking into the kitchen during the pickle-making process and being hit with the smells of garlic, vinegar, and spices.

The canning recipes I used most often which resulted in awards at local fairs, were:

  • Apple Pie Filling
  • Apple Jelly
  • Crabapple Jelly
  • Green Tomato Mincemeat (vegetarian)
  • Green Relish
  • Spiced Pickled Beets 

I used the Apple Pie Filling recipe mainly when we lived in Eastern Ontario where there was an abundance of apple trees.

The Crabapple Jelly was a mainstay in our family until the last few years. We still have 2 varieties of crabs, but now I love watching the birds eat them while on their long migration southward.

Green Tomato Mincemeat makes wonderful holiday tarts while using up all those green tomatoes that aren't good enough to ripen between layers of newspapers. Our summers are very short.... the summer of 2014 arrived last Sunday and lasted a good eighteen hours. I'm kidding of course because we actually had one hot day in July and two more in August before the rain returned.

I received the Green Relish recipe from a French-Canadian neighbor, Marie Drouin, back in our Ontario days. I've always found the end result to be as good, if not better, as the sweet green relish you buy at the grocers, providing safe food handling procedures are used.

ca 1990 Anita Mae Draper's garden and backyard, Casselman, Ontario

One day I visited Marie while she was working on her relish recipe and during her coffee break she kindly copied it out for me. With mounds of my own cukes waiting to be processed, I was so thankful to receive it I didn't question that it was written in French. I figured after all those years of taking French in school, I'd surely be able to translate it. But in those pre-internet days, I couldn't figure out how much graine de celere and moutarde poudre was called for in the recipe because it was written as 2c. a the with the appropriate apostrophes going in both directions.  2 cups? It couldn't be.  2 tablespoons? More likely teaspoons.

But I needed to be sure, so I paid Marie another visit and while she talked, I scribbled the English translation on the recipe card as you see it below.

Green Relish Recipe Card Side 1

Green Relish Recipe Card Side 2

As you can see by the stains and marks, the recipe has been well-used. And that doesn't even include the times I used it after I wrote it into my recipe journal in case I lost the original card.

Please note that the best cucumbers for relish are the firm, smooth-skinned, dark green cucumbers that grow about 8-9 inches long and not the long slender English cucumbers, nor the small 2-4 inch pickling cucumbers. Some varieties of this cucumber have small spines (pricks) which are easily brushed off and are shown as white spots in the photo below. Cukes that are yellowing, soft, or shrivelling, do not make good relish.

I went to my photo files for a picture of the best type to use but the only example I have without searching through boxes of photos is this one that JJ entered in the Comic Character/Animal from Vegetables category in the Weyburn Fair when he was 6 years old. For those who don't know the characters from Big Idea's Veggie Tales, JJ's entry was Larry the Cucumber for which he received 2nd place.

6 yr old JJ's 2004 Weyburn Fair entry

Older brother Nick who was 9 yrs old at the time, entered another Veggie Tales character, Bob the Tomato, and snagged the 1st place ribbon which is Red up here in Canada. The only criteria for this category is that the character/animal be made from something grown, either in Canada or elsewhere. For both entries, the boys used mushrooms, raisins, vanilla bean, etc for the features.

9 yr old Nick's 2004 Weyburn Fair entry

This video has nothing to do with a Cucumber Relish recipe except for showing the size and type of cucumbers to use for best relish results. It's also a very silly song for your entertainment.

I'll be posting a transcript of this recipe, over on my website's Recipe Blog which is woefully out of date and needed something current to give it new life.

Do you preserve or can for the winter? What are your thoughts ... satisfaction when you see your shelves?  Or not worth the time and trouble?

Fun sharing time: What's your favorite Veggie Tales character or song?


Anita Mae Draper is retired from the Canadian Armed Forces and lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan, Canada with her hubby of 30 plus years and the youngest of their 4 kids. She writes cowboy stories set in the Old West, and Edwardian stories set in the East.  Anita Mae's short story, Riding on a Christmas Wish is published in A Christmas Cup of Cheer, Guideposts Books, October 2013. She is honored that Guideposts Books have chosen a second short story, Here We Come A-wassailing,  for inclusion in the 2014 Christmas Cheer II book set.   Anita Mae is represented by Mary Keeley of Books & Such Literary Agency. You can find Anita at

Monday, September 15, 2014

Building a Strong Foundation

By Niki Turner

One of my sons is going to be featured in an art show in Denver later this month. I bought my ticket, and noting the "cocktail attire" requirement, went shopping. (When you live in Western Colorado, "cocktail attire" means wearing jeans that don't have cow manure on them... but things are different on the Front Range!)

I found a dress, but right away determined the dress would need some "help" in the form of foundation undergarments, which got me to thinking about the importance of having a solid, sturdy foundation of faith.

Your foundation is your support system. It's what keeps you upright, what prevents you from wilting or bending or collapsing. As a 44-year-old mother of four and grandmother of 3, I have some jiggly bits and wiggly parts that need to be corralled in order to make my dress presentable to the public.

So it is with my faith... I have some jiggly bits, things I don't fully understand, some parts and pieces I haven't completely reconciled, that need a solid foundation.

Having a reliable foundation is crucial to having a faith that prevails over the circumstances life throws at us.

"These words that I speak to you are not mere additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundation words, words to build a life on." Luke 6:47 The Message

My husband worked as a contractor for a number of years. On every project I would question the length of time it took to get past the foundation and to the stuff I could see: walls, windows, doors, etc. It took more time to establish a sound foundation than it did to put up walls, install fixtures, or any other part of the construction process because the foundation was critical to the future success and longevity of the building.

The same is true of our faith. We need to dig deep and work the words of Jesus into the hidden parts of our lives: our thoughts and feelings and motives, the way rebar is worked into the foundation of a building.

Jesus instructed us to work the word into the very fabric of our lives, to make His teachings the central part of our day to day existence. When we do that, we can enjoy a foundation that is sturdy and strong enough to withstand any storm of life. So the next time you reach for your Spanx, or whatever foundation undergarment you rely on, remember, your faith needs a solid foundation, too. If it feels uncomfortably jiggly, go back to those foundation words.


Niki Turner is a novelist, journalist, blogger, and production manager for the Rio Blanco Herald Times in Meeker, Colorado. She lives on Colorado's Western Slope, blogs at and is a co-blogger at She is also the Colorado Coordinator for American Christian Fiction Writers. Her fiction blends the good news of God's love with come-as-you-are characters in stories that encourage and inspire. Her novella, "Sadie's Gift" is available on Kindle and Nook as part of the Christmas Traditions series. Her novella, "Santiago Sol" will be published by Pelican Book Ventures as part of the Passport to Romance collection at a date to be announced. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

When the Game Stands Tall

by C. J. Chase
Some years back—at about this time of year—a fellow Green Bay Packers fan and I were sitting in the church choir before practice discussing the relative strengths of the AFC and NFC when a man walked by. He paused, rather astounded, and said, “Women discussing football!” I sometimes think that could be the basis for a great country song—the things women discuss (like football) when men aren’t around that would totally shock them. 
World famous author C.J.
Chase holds signed book
while modeling Packer scarf.

Yes, it’s autumn again, so you know what that means: school buses are chugging down the road, leaves are changing their colors, and another another football movie has hit the theatres with all the predictability of a run up the middle.

First, let’s look at the typical sports movie. If you’ve ever had kids or even just ever been a kid, you know the formula. A team of misfits gets a down-and-out coach. After a disastrous start to the season, they learn to work together and go on to win the championship. See The Mighty Ducks (hockey), Angels in the Outfield (baseball), Facing the Giants (football), etc. Need more examples? Karate Kid (martial arts), Cool Runnings (bobsledding), Seabiscuit (horse racing), get the idea. There are variations, but the formula is basically the same with only the actors and the sports changing. One could say it’s a winning formula for movie studios. (Bad joke, I know.)

We took our boys to see When the Game Stands Tall two weeks ago. As a sports movie, it turns the formula upside down because the focus is on losing. Losing? But aren’t sports all about winning?

The movie is inspired by real events. For over a decade, from 1992 – 2003, De La Salle High School’s football team went undefeated, a record of 151 straight wins. (For comparison, the next longest winning streak in high school football is 109 games.) The problem was that the longer the streak lasted, the more pressure there was on the coaches and players. What team wanted to be the one that ended the streak?

Of course, eventually life came knocking as it always does. The coach had a heart attack. A player was murdered. And then, the team lost. Unlike the typical sports movie where underdogs make good, WtGST deals with the fallout of being stripped one’s identity as a winner. As someone who has seen a large number of sports movies (did I mention I’m a mom to three boys?) I found that far more impactful than another rah-rah, we-are-the-champions guy flick. Sooner or later, we all go through those times when everything we have built our identity on comes crashing down around us. What defines us is how we react in those moments. Do we give up, or can we pick ourselves up, learn from our mistakes, and begin again?

WtGST stars Jim Caviesel as Coach Bob Ladouceur and is another one of those movies that audiences have liked far better than the critics. (Currently on RottenTomatoes, 79% of viewers gave it a positive rating compared to just 17% of critics.) As one might expect, Hollywood took poetic license with some events to create drama (hence the “inspired by a true story” disclaimer) but Coach Ladouceur's son seemed pleased with the movie in an interview here.

The movie has a PG rating. We took our 7-year-old because he still has far to go in learning to be a gracious loser, but I think much of the movie was still a bit over his head. There are also a couple intense scenes (the coach’s heart attack, the player’s murder, an abusive father attacking his son) that may be inappropriate for very small children. De La Salle is a Catholic high school, so Christian faith elements are sprinkled throughout (the coach teaching a Bible passage, a player who talks about a “purity pledge,” the players reciting the Lord’s Prayer).

All in all, WtGST was an inspiring way to spend a couple hours on a rainy afternoon.

Do you like sports movies? Can you at least tolerate them for the men in your life? Do you have any favorites? (True confession: I think I still have to go with Miracle as my all-time fav even though I prefer football to hockey.)

After leaving the corporate world to stay home with her children, C.J. Chase quickly learned she did not possess the housekeeping gene. She decided writing might provide the perfect excuse for letting the dust bunnies accumulate under the furniture. Her procrastination, er, hard work paid off in 2010 when she won the Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Manuscript and sold the novel to Love Inspired Historicals. You can visit C.J.'s cyber-home (where the floors are always clean) at

Monday, September 8, 2014

Princess Diana: A Royal Exhibition

by Susanne Dietze

I was just a girl when Lady Di married Prince Charles--and oh, how she made an impression on me. She was lovely, charming, flawed, and despite some of her questionable choices, I never quite got over her. Or the rest of her Windsor relations.
I still have my paper dolls!
So naturally I was eager to visit the RMS Queen Mary, permanently docked in Long Beach, California (a fun experience all by itself) to visit an exhibit featuring Diana: Legacy of a Princess -- a Royal Exhibition.

The name of the exhibit is a little misleading. It's not all about Diana; in fact, the exhibit's opening rooms ground the visitor in Windsor history, starting with the abdication of Edward VIII. You may recall he abdicated so he could marry his divorced American love, Wallis Simpson.

Via original newspaper articles and timelines to give the visitor a sense of time and place, one follows history as one walks through the exhibit at one's own pace to view thousands of interesting items (some personal, including letters, clothing, and photographs; some not, including collections of Diana dolls, replicas of tiaras and wedding bouquets, books written by Prince Charles, and commemorative plates) relevant to just about every other member of the Royal Family through to Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, and adorable Prince George.

No wonder the whole family is included, really. The ship is the Queen Mary, who was the mother of Edward VIII and George VI, Queen Elizabeth's father.

Alas, no photos are allowed inside the exhibit. Double Alas, there is no guide book available, so I cannot direct you to a place where you can experience the exhibit without being there. The best I can do is share a few things I saw and this handy dandy, 30-second Youtube video:

Needless to say, I loved the exhibit. And it broke my heart. There's something about being right in front of something personal to a historic figure that makes her real to you in a way you can't imagine.

For instance, King George VI, Queen Elizabeth's dad, was one slender man. His coronation robe is on display (a cream-colored jacket with padded shoulders, worn under the robes of state), and while it is an amazing piece of embroidered craftsmanship, I couldn't get over how lean the guy was. Most men I know could not wear that robe. Probably not even Colin Firth, who played him in The King's Speech. (You can find a photo of it on this blog. As I said earlier, photos weren't allowed and others I found online are under copyright, so I'm playing it safe.)

Also thin? Wallis Simpson, later the Duchess of Windsor. Her pink negligee is on display. (Isn't it creepy to think your nightclothes might someday be ogled by thousands?) It is sheer and there's nowhere to hide a muffin top in that thing.
shocking pink chiffon nightdress came with a matching capelet late 40s owned by Wallis Simpson ~ sold at a Kerry auction
Wallis' negligee, Taken from Pinterest via the Washington Times

None of the Queen's or Queen Mother's clothes are on exhibit, but other mementos are on view, including letters. I loved peeking at the royal family's Christmas cards. Each one I saw had a photo on one side and a printed message on the other, signed by one or both members of a royal couple. Oddly, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip's card from 1978 shows them posing with three corgis, but none of their unmarried children. I believe Prince Andrew and Prince Edward were teenagers at the time, still clearly in the royal nest. Hmm.

Speaking of those princes, I learned their wives each had two wedding gowns made. This was done so if something happened to one dress, another was ready for the Big Day. Sarah Ferguson, Andrew's bride, and Sophie, Edward's bride, befell no trauma to their gowns, leaving us the distinct pleasure of being able to view their backup gowns. They are not copies, but rather identical twins, created by the designers of the same fabric and embellishments at the same time.

Both gowns surprised me. I knew when Fergie married her gown was embroidered with bees, thistles, the letter "A" and hearts, but on TV I couldn't see the details, nor could I make them out in photos. Now I wonder how I missed them: the embroidery is a dark silver-gray and quite a stark contrast to the ivory of her gown. (Due to copyright issues, I can't include a photo, but you can view a replica here to see what I mean about the embroidery.)

Sophie's gown is medieval in style, and I thought it looked lovely in photos. I would have liked to see the backup gown displayed without the "coat" over it, however, because the style looked plain on the mannequin. (Click here for a photo of the dress without the coat.)

Other observations? Prince Charles signs his name in such a way that in some of his letters, I couldn't tell it was Charles. Here's a link; scroll down to his signature, but this one definitely is more readable than some I saw. His wife Camilla has better penmanship, at least when signing Christmas cards.

Kate Middleton could probably fit into Wallis Simpson's clothes, if one judges by looking at her dresses on display. While the exhibit contains a replica of the "Blue Dress" she wore to announce her engagement, other dresses are original, including "The Dress" she wore when William first laid eyes on her, a sparkly, er, ensemble/tube/swimsuit cover-up she modeled. I believe this dress later sold at auction for a hundred thousand pounds. Replicas are on sale in the gift shop for over $200.
Nope, can't wear this to church.
And then there's Diana. The exhibit includes letters she wrote, some of her jewels, and sadly, gifts Charles had given to her: part of a tea set was one example. There were also quite a few pieces of wedding memorabilia, including the seating chart for her Wedding Breakfast, a wedding invitation, and a program to the service.
The gift shop--where I did not buy a single thing! Honest!
There's also a handwritten schedule for her hairdresser, which made me laugh out loud. You see, when I was younger, my mom subscribed to Good Housekeeping, and Diana annually graced their cover. One article that stuck with me described Diana's hair routine: wash every other day "without fail" and trim every five weeks. The message was even someone like me could have fabulous hair if I followed Diana's regimen. And I've remembered that silly article all these years and it's stern "without fail" warning.

What the article didn't say is Diana had a hairdresser appointment at least 50% of the mornings during any given month, sometimes more often. I am confident Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, also has significant hair support. Remember that "casual" first photo of Will, Kate, and baby George, taken by her father? She had two people work on her hair for that casual shot.

Not that I'm judging. I wish I had somebody to do my hair for me.

But back to Diana.

Several of her gowns are on display, currently owned by various individuals and purchased at auction (before her death, Diana donated many ensembles for charity). Sigh. Just lovely, and I remembered most of them.

Diana's wedding gown, as well as her jewelry and other items, belong to her sons and are not part of the exhibition. Her famous wedding gown used to be on exhibit on her brother's estate, Althorp, where she is buried, but the exhibit closed a year ago.

I left feeling a little sad. I couldn't help wondering how some of the objects came to be included. Clearly, Diana gave away Charles' gifts for some obvious reasons, but the other items in the exhibition were sold--sometimes by people who needed the cash (as in the case of the wedding invitation). What would it be like, to write letters or invite a friend to my wedding, and then have those things sold at auction? I stood in front of each of her gowns and wished things had turned out differently for their original owner. I wondered, what if she'd known Jesus?

Fortunately, I had something to cheer me up: a nice tea.
Uh oh, that's caviar on the salmon.

The tea shop is located next to the exhibit, and the mango chicken salad sandwiches were fabulous. I wouldn't mind another right now.

If I get the recipe, I'll let you know. Until then, I'll be washing my hair at least every other day without fail.

What about you? Do you enjoy Royal Watching?


This originally appeared on Tea and a Good Book.

Susanne Dietze thinks Prince George is absolutely adorable. Her novella, Love's Reward, will be part of Barbour's Most Eligible Bachelor Collection, coming in 2015. You can visit her on her website,

Friday, September 5, 2014

A Heart Exploration

 by Dina Sleiman

These past few months have been a season of heart exploration for me. I’ve been inspired to really probe my heart and understand its deepest desires.  It all started when I had the pleasure of taking a continuing class with Allen Arnold called “The Heart of a Storyteller.” The class was all about putting your heart first and creating hand and hand with God. I loved it so much that I decided to continue my study of the heart throughout the summer, which was especially apropos as my upcoming series is called Valiant Hearts. Since Allen Arnold works with John Eldredge and referenced many of his books during the class, I decided to soak myself in Eldredge’s writing.

First I read, Desire: The Journey We Must Take to Find the Life God Offers. Usually when I read a book, I see portions I want to absorb into myself and make my own, and other parts that I don’t quite agree with. But I have to say, I drank in every bit of this book. So often in church we are given the impression that we must deny our hearts and our desires. That these are somehow “fleshly.” But Eldredge challenges readers to do the opposite: to awaken their hearts, seek healing form their wounds, and align their hearts fully with God. When we truly know God and understand the deepest desires He has placed in our hearts, we will be set free to live out our divine destinies.


Next I read Captivating. In book 2 of my Valiant Hearts series, my heroine is struggling with gender roles, and I wanted to have a clear picture of Godly femininity versus traditional expectations placed on women. The book really helped me to see this clearly, and a surprise bonus was that it helped me to understand more deeply my own heart as a woman. So I went on to read Wild at Heart to better understand the man’s role in this whole journey, and I continued to learn and grow. I’m not certain that I bought every word in these books the way I did in Desire. As much as the Eldredges strove not to stereotype and box in the genders, that tendency still crept in at times, but overall I really enjoyed the books and gleaned a lot of valuable information. They challenged me to look at myself and those around me in a new light and continued the theme of awakening the heart.


Meanwhile, never fear, my obsession with all things YA dystopian continued. Next on the list was the Delirium trilogy. 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. 


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 my study on the heart. 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. 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.

My summer of heart exploration culminated on August 30th, when I laid on the swing in the backyard determined to finish up my reading so I could focus on writing come September. On that afternoon I was struck with brilliant line after brilliant line. I clipped them and saved them together on my kindle, and when I went back to look at them, I was beyond amazed at how beautifully the wrap up of the Delirium series lined up with the wrap up of Wild at Heart. Allow me to share the brief version with you. 

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.”

Wild at Heart by John Eldredge (with quote from My Utmost for His Highest)

“The greatest obstacle to realizing our dreams is the false self’s hatred of mystery…mystery is the heart of the universe and the God who made it. The most important aspects of any man’s world—his relationship with his God and with the people in his life, his calling, the spiritual battles he’ll face—every one of them is fraught with mystery… it is a joyful rich part of reality and essential to our soul’s thirst for adventure. As Oswald Chambers says, ‘Naturally we are inclined to be mathematical and calculating that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing…Certainty is the mark of the common-sense life; gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means we are uncertain in all our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness; it should rather be an expression of breathless expectation.’”

And so that is how I conclude my summer of heart exploration. Love is hard. Following your heart is hard. They involve risk and much sacrifice. They are fraught with mystery and uncertainty. But the risks are well worthwhile, and the alternative is a life not worth living at all.

What has God been speaking to you lately? And on the lighter side, have you ever experienced the symptoms of "armor deliria nervosa" in the picture above?

Dina Sleiman writes lyrical stories that dance with light. 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. Check out her novels Dance from Deep Within, Dance of the Dandelion, and Love in Three-Quarter time. And please join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace. For more info visit her at


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