I knew that C.S. Lewis and I had more in common than our Christianity when he said, "You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me." Welcome to a celebration of faith, tea, and the written word. I'm always engaged in a book, and whether it's one I'm reading or one of the inspirational historical romances I write, there's always a cup of tea close by. Join me in a cup as we chat about faith, our favorite books and the exciting places our reading and writing adventures take us.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

YeeHaw! I Sold A Cowboy Novella!


Happy News! I sold a novella to Barbour for The Cowboy's Bride Collection.

It's called For a Song. Set in 1858 South Texas, it's a tale about family--the kind we're born into and the kind we make with those God sets in our lives.

Two songbirds, red and yellow—a straightforward order for an upstanding widowed rancher’s lonely daughter. But when a sister-act of saloon singers (a redhead and a blonde) arrives on the stagecoach expecting him to give them a job, his daughter changes her tune and starts singing not for a pet, but a pretty ginger-haired Mama.

Lily Kimball (The Paradise on PBS)
Red-haired Lily Kimball dreams of singing on stage like famous opera singer Jenny Lind. But fate--or God--has other plans for her.
Unidentified Girl with Ringlets, circa 1850's
Georgia Bridge wants pet birds. And a mother.


Jackson Bridge (Sam Reid)
Hero Jackson Bridge: South Texas rancher with double trouble on his hands.
 
Victorian Graphic- Girl with Birdcage, Bird, Cat - The Graphics Fairy
Here's the picture that started it all: a Victorian girl and her songbird.
There are eight other authors in the collection, but not all of them have announced, so I can't share who they are yet. But I will say that there are some phenomenal authors in the group, and I'm honored to be in a collection with them.

The Cowboy's Bride is set to release in March, 2016. A whole year away! But the manuscript is due in a few weeks, so I'm busy with rewrites and finishing touches.

I'll let you know when the cover is released! I can't wait to see it.

Thanks for celebrating with me!

If you'd like to see more pics, here's my story board on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/susannedietze/for-a-song/

Monday, March 23, 2015

Dauntless~A Fun, Fresh YA Romance

22504499

I'm a fan of Dina Sleiman's previous novels, so I was excited to read Dauntless, the first in the Valiant Hearts series.

While the book is YA, that doesn't mean it isn't rich in plot or theme; it was fully enjoyable to me as an adult reader. Sleiman does a great job with the medieval setting, quick-moving plot, compelling and imperfect female and male characters, a sweet romance, and a strong faith element.

Merry Ellison is a brave, smart heroine that serves as a fine role model to younger readers. A bit of a female Robin Hood, she engages in plenty of swashbuckling action while she contends with her faith, the ethical dilemma of stealing from the rich to help the poor, and the pain of her past.

I recommend this book to any fan of inspirational historical novels, adult and teen.

Thanks to Bethany House for providing a novel in exchange for my honest review. A positive review was neither promised nor expected.

Monday, March 16, 2015

A Thing of the Past: Finding Inspiration from Objects


 

 I’m a museum nerd, one of those who loves strolling through exhibits, reading plaques and, on occasion, taking photos of displays (when allowed) so I can soak up every juicy detail of whatever it is I’m admiring. One look at a landscape, snuff box, dress with panniers or potpourri vase and my imagination goes bonkers. Who used the item? How did they feel about it?

Sometimes, that’s how the germ of a story forms. Connecting to Things (for lack of a better word) has set me on paths of research that have molded my stories—including my historical romance novella, Love’s Reward, from The Most Eligible Bachelor Collection.

In that particular case, a hundred-year-old pencil sketch on tracing paper caught my eye and got me thinking.

The premise of my novella required my hero’s involvement in competitions—both professional and personal—which take top priority in his life until a rival offers a reward for the capture of his heart (the only safe female in town, of course, is a charity-minded miss whose only designs are on the hero’s wallet).

Finding a personal contest for my hero was easy, but I wasn’t certain about my hero’s professional challenge. I wanted him to be an architect with a goal, such as winning a commission or a local prize. However, I didn’t know much about his field in the 1800’s. Rather than start looking for articles on the subject, I first peeked at Ebay and Google Images to get a glimpse of architecture tools and buildings from that era.

That’s when I stumbled upon some pencil and pen-and-wash architecture submissions to a global contest held in the 1890’s. (The copyrighted submissions can be viewed here.) In 1896, mining and real estate heiress Phoebe Apperson Hearst (mother of media mogul William Randolph Hearst) granted a gift to the University of California, Berkeley, allowing it to hold an International Architectural Competition to determine a master plan for the campus’s buildings and grounds. Over a hundred architects from all over the world competed for the honor.

 I was enraptured by those submissions and could imagine my hero busy with his own proposal—and my story fell into place. I had a time and setting for my novella (1896, in Hearst’s San Francisco), data on how architects worked in the 1890’s, and a conflict with much higher stakes than I’d originally planned—all inspired by a Thing I’d seen online.

 Ironically, I fictionalized the Hearst Competition as well as the name of the university for my novella, but I felt confident knowing there was a historical precedent.

 Not everyone is a visual learner, like I am (some of us are auditory or kinesthetic), and not all of us write historical fiction. Nevertheless, looking at Things related to our stories is a form of research that can add depth and detail to our works-in-progress. Whether it’s found in an illustrated guide (even ones for children!) or a site like Ebay, Things can be used to help guide our investigation—at the very least. At best, a writer might find the item sparks the imagination.

 And a Thing of the past becomes a vibrant part of a living story.

 
***

 What’s your favorite antique treasure that belonged to your family?

Monday, March 9, 2015

Introduction to Dauntless with 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!

 Dina L. Sleiman

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.
http://www.amazon.com/Dauntless-Valiant-Hearts-Dina-Sleiman/dp/0764213121/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

 

Monday, March 2, 2015

How to Write a Book Review, with Guest Dina Sleiman!

Welcome Dina Sleiman to Tea and a Good Book!

 Dina is a friend of mine, and I'm thrilled for her newest release: Dauntless, a YA, medieval-set novel. More on it in a minute. But first, I asked Dina to share with us her tips on writing book reviews, which can be tricky! Thanks for joining us, Dina!

 
I’m sure there are a lot of readers and authors out there who love to support good books through reviews. But if you are like some of my friends, you might find the task a bit intimidating. Here are some tips that I gave my “Dauntless Launch Team” on how to write a book review and post it online. I hope they will help!

How to Post a Review

1)      First I would suggest writing your review somewhere like Microsoft word so that you can check and edit it. Mention a few things you liked about the book, but be careful not to give away any secrets. Some reviewers write a summary of the book, which is nice for a blog post, but not particularly helpful on a website that already includes the book info. The main point should be: I liked this book because…and if you like those things you will enjoy the book too. A few sentences up to a few paragraphs is a good length. These don’t have to be works of art. People like to see reviews by normal readers.

2)      Remember that a 4 to 5 star rating is helpful. A kind and thoughtful 3 star rating can also be helpful in the long run. But if you cannot give it at least a 3 star rating, please realize that you are likely hurting the sale of the book. In that case, unless you would like to speak out against the book for some reason, it is better to stay quiet.

3)      You can post reviews on a blog, or even straight to a facebook post, but posting them on review sites is probably the most helpful. The main sites are amazon, goodreads, barnesandnoble, booksamillion, and cbd, (Christian book), but there are others as well. For most of these sites, you will need to “log in”, “sign in”, or “register” to begin the process. If you don’t have a log in, you will need to create one. It is not only fine, but actually typical, to post the exact same review on multiple sites.

4)      Once you are logged into a bookseller site, search for the book and find the page where it is featured. Go to the review section of the page. Usually somewhere near the top of the review section you will see a link inviting you to write a review, but sometimes it will be hiding in a weird spot, especially on mobile devices. Click on it. It will open a place to leave a star review and a text box. Choose your stars and copy and paste your review into the text box. You will then have to preview and submit your review. These can then take a day or two to show up on the website.

5)      Goodreads is a little more tricky if you aren’t used to it. Once you search for the book and find the page, you should see a “Want to Read” button. Don’t push that if you want to review! LOL. To the right side of the button is a little bookshelf looking part of the button. Hover over that. It will give you the option to click that you’ve “Read” the book. Once you click that you’ve read the book, it should open a review screen with star rating and text box. There are other ways to get to the review screen, but that is the simplest. If you’ve pushed “Want to read” or “Currently reading” previously, you will have to go into your review of the book and edit it. Hopefully if you use the site regularly, that won’t be hard for you.  Goodreads is a really fun site for booklovers, by the way, so if you aren’t a member, I recommend joining.

6)      It is most helpful to the author if you post the reviews within a month of the book’s release. However, any positive review at any time is always helpful.

Have fun and happy reviewing!

Do you have any other tips for reviewing? What sort of review makes you want to buy a book?

More about Dina:

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. For more info visit her at her primary website.
http://dinasleiman.com/


More about Dauntless:

Where Legend and History Collide, 
One Young Woman Will Fight for the Innocent
Born a baron's daughter, Lady Merry Ellison is now an enemy of the throne after her father's failed assassination attempt upon the king. Bold and uniquely skilled, she is willing to go to any lengths to protect the orphaned children of her former village--a group that becomes known as "The Ghosts of Farthingale Forest." Merry finds her charge more difficult as their growing notoriety brings increasing trouble their way.

Timothy Grey, ninth child of the Baron of Greyham, longs to perform some feat so legendary that he will rise from obscurity and earn a title of his own. When the Ghosts of Farthingale Forest are spotted in Wyndeshire, where he serves as assistant to the local earl, he might have found his chance. But when he comes face-to-face with the leader of the thieves, he's forced to reexamine everything he's known.

Print Books Now Available online!
Ebooks release February 24th.
In stores March 3rd.
Christianbook
Amazon
Barnesandnoble
Booksamillion
Lifeway




Monday, February 16, 2015

For Whom the Bluebell Tolls~A Fresh Cozy Mystery!

I loved the first Bridal Bouquet Shop Mystery by Beverly Allen, Bloom and Doom, so I've eagerly awaited the second book in the series, For Whom the Bluebell Tolls. (What would happen between our heroine sleuth, Audrey, and Brad the baker? Who in this quaint, fun town would die next?) It was worth the wait! Plot twists, sneaky clues, and delightful characters make for a rich bouquet of reading pleasure.
Find it here!
Here's the back cover blurb:

Deadly thorns lurk among the roses in this Bridal Bouquet Shop Mystery

Florist Audrey Bloom, co-owner of the Rose in Bloom, creates fragrant bouquets for brides. But when a wedding goes fatally wrong, it’s up to Audrey to sniff out a killer . . .

Everything is coming up roses for Audrey when her dazzling creations are picked to be featured on a wedding reality show. The hot series is filming an episode about a bride who’s bonkers for bells, and Audrey’s bouquets of campanulas, calla lilies, and Bells-of-Ireland are perfect for the bridal theme.

But Audrey’s debut quickly becomes a hothouse of trouble. Her ex, Brad, shows up as a crew member on the show, threatening her blossoming relationship with Nick the baker. To make matters worse, when one of the show’s hosts is found dead in the bell tower of a historic church, all the evidence points toward Brad.

Now Audrey needs to weed out the real killer before someone else’s chance at stardom is permanently nipped in the bud . . .

***

I recommend this mystery series to anyone who loves cozy mysteries. It's clean, fresh, and well-written. Looking forward to book #3 in the series!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Victorian Valentines

Happy Valentine's Day (or Galentine's Day, or Singles Awareness Day...whichever you like)!

In the spirit of the holiday and in keeping with all the research I'm doing into my latest Victorian-set romance, I thought I'd share a few Victorian Valentines I've found online. And boy, did the Victorians like their Valentines. Just google it and you will find zillions.

These are a few of my favorites.

This post card is sort of what you'd expect Victorians to exchange. Flowers. A dove. A clean, proper sentiment: "I ask this boon in friendship's name. Will you be My Valentine?"
Sure thing, friend!

But I was surprised to see a few Victorian Valentines that get right to the heart of the matter: sex. This Valentine is pretty racy with its nighttime setting and almost-but-not-quite smooch.
Vintage Victorian Valentine Couple in heart ~ "I am tired, Beloved,  of chafing my heart against  the want of you;  of squeezing it into little inkdrops,  And posting it."  ~Amy Lowell, "The Letter"
Watch those hands, mister!
This one from 1915 has the same idea.
To My Valentine, c.1915
found here


For the less, er, married Victorian, there were far more genteel purchase options. Courtly love. Courting love. Flashes back to the past. This Valentine may be Victorian, but the clothes the folks are wearing are Regency-era. It seems then, as now, the past was considered romantic.
With Love Victorian Couple Postcard ~ Silk Fabric
Mr. Darcy had charm then and now.

Another nostalgia piece? Looks like it. The hair and dress are definitely not Victorian. His hat and dress remind me of the Quaker Oats Man, but he is far too suave and young.
Victorian Valentine Cards
Aww.
This one is romantic in its text, but very properly-so, and the image of a child definitely removes one from a romantic frame of mind. It's the sort of thing one's mother would have approved of your receiving from a suitor. Winsome ways and manners fine, indeed!
4284863571 f882d48e60 1880s Victorian Valentines Day Card O
found here

You didn't have to be in love with somebody to send a Valentine. There's nothing gooshy about this one.
Victorian Woman Valentine
Greetings, indeed. If I got this from my husband, I'd say, Greeting back atcha, babe.
 
Children figured prominently in Valentines. I'm guessing from the bicycle that this one was made in the 1890s-through the Edwardian era. I love the boy's socks.
Pretty valentine cards
And the border! Wow!

Nothing says Victorian-era Valentines like Cherubs. Although this 1912 cherub is a bit creepy. I mean, he's crafted a spider web? To trap you? In a web of love?
Victorian Valentine
Found here

I suppose then, as now, the most important thing was telling someone they're important to you. That you're thinking of them. That they are in your heart. That they're worth the extravagance of flowers and cards and tokens of affection.
Victorian Valentine
found here
So here's my greeting to you, friend to friend.

Happy Valentine's Day Greetings!
Clapsaddle Valentine card O