Jennifer Lamont Leo

A Sparkling Vintage Life

My Valentine to you: a free eBook of SONGBIRD AND OTHER STORIES

Hiya, Sparklers! If your hair has been turning silver waiting for me to release a new novel, here’s a gap-filler for you. I’ve written four short stories and collected them in a single volume called Songbird and Other Stories. Each story is set in the 1920s and features one of the characters from my novel series: Dot, Marjorie, or Helen. If you enjoyed You’re the Cream in My Coffee or Ain’t Misbehavin’, reading Songbird and Other Stories ought to feel cozy and comfortable, like a visit with old friends. And if you haven’t read those books (what are you waiting for?), Songbird and Other Stories is a great introduction to the storyworld of the Jazz Age. *

Now here’s the really good part: For a limited time, you can download Songbird and Other Stories for FREE at Bookfunnel (giving new meaning to the term “Free Bird”). All I ask is that you consider posting a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads if you like it. (If you don’t like it, maybe you can just let it go gentle into that good night, with apologies to Dylan Thomas.)

Currently Songbird is only available as an eBook, but we’re working on producing a print edition that will be available soon. I know many of you prefer to read “real” books printed on paper, so I’ll let you know just as soon as the print edition is available.

* (Also, unlike so many stories set in that era, these are clean and sweet, something moms, grandmas, and daughters can all share and enjoy.)

Episode 2: The Woman’s Institute and Mary Brooks Picken

Options to consider for my “afternoon dress,” as opposed to my scruffy morning bathtub-scrubbing outfit.

Vintage Notions by Amy Barickman

Project Gutenberg, a resource for online editions of public-domain works, many of which are out-of-print or otherwise hard to obtain. Search for “Woman’s Institute” to see what booklets pop up. Only a few titles are available currently; hopefully more will be added as time goes by. Still, they give you a flavor of the era (especially those on cookery. Ha!)

The Sparkling Vintage Ladies’ Reading Circle

Jennifer’s fiction:
You’re the Cream in My Coffee
Ain’t Misbehavin’
Songbird and Other Stories

Jennifer’s blog

Episode 1: Introduction


This episode is an introduction to a new podcast called A Sparkling Vintage Life Host Jennifer Leo explains how she came to love all things vintage and sometimes feels as if she was meant to live in an earlier era. Through A Sparkling Vintage Life she’ll be celebrating the best of the past and discussing ways to incorporate vintage elements into a 21-century woman’s life. She welcomes kindred spirits to join her on the journey!

(And, yes, the sound quality needs work. “She” is still learning… appreciate your patience!)


The Sparkling Vintage Ladies’ Reading Circle

Jennifer’s fiction:
You’re the Cream in My Coffee
Ain’t Misbehavin’

Jennifer’s blog

Like vintage-style make-up? Here’s a new podcast for you!

I’ve talked before about how much I enjoy Besame Cosmetics, a company that reproduces vintage make-up colors, styles, and fragrances. So you can imagine how thrilled I was to learn that Besame is producing a brand-new podcast! The inaugural episode of At the House of Besame features founder Gabriela Hernandez and host discussing the new Mermaid Lagoon and Mickey Mouse make-up palettes, Get all the behind-the-scenes scoop about what goes into producing such unique products for vintage-lovers like us.

The Waterfall Mist fragrance, part of the new Mermaid Lagoon
collection from Besame Cosmetics

Cozy reads for January

January 2019 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.


Amish Romance:

Seasons of an Amish Garden by Amy Clipston — Enjoy a year of beautiful seasons in this new story collection, as young Amish couples manage a community garden and harvest friendships and love along the way. (Amish Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

Courting Her Prodigal Heart by Mary Davis — Pregnant and alone, Dori Bontrager is sure her Amish kin won’t welcome her—or the child she’s carrying—into the community. And she’s determined that her return won’t be permanent. As soon as she finds work, she’ll leave again. But with her childhood friend Eli Hochstetler insisting she and her baby belong here, will Dori’s path lead back to the Englisher world…or into Eli’s arms? (Amish Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])


Contemporary Romance:

Her Hope Discovered by Cynthia Herron — Charla Winthrop, a savvy business woman seeking a permanent lifestyle change in small-town Ruby, Missouri, learns that things aren’t always what they appear when she takes up residence in a house steeped in charm and a hint of mystery. Rumor has it that Sam Packard the town carpenter is her go-to guy for home remodeling, but can Charla convince him to help her—with no strings attached, of course? Alone far too long, Sam’s prayed that God would send him a wife and a mother for his daughters. However, the new Ruby resident is hardly what he imagined. A new place to call “home,” the possibility of what might be, and the answer to someone’s prayers unite this unlikely pair with the help of the town’s residents. (Contemporary Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)


Cozy Mystery:

Murderous Heart by Lynne Waite Chapman — Freelance writer, Lauren Halloren pens popular magazine articles extoling the comfort and security of small town America. And Evelynton, Indiana treasures its wholesome small town values. Ask anyone. Streets are safe to walk. People look out for one another. Marriage vows are treasured. Murders are solved. In this third volume of the Evelynton Murder series, Lauren, along with friends, Clair and Anita stumble over another body. The partially mummified remains turn out to be an Evelynton resident. But how, in this close knit community, could a woman be deceased for over six months without being missed? (Cozy Mystery from Winged Publications)


Historical Romance:

My Heart Belongs in the Blue Ridge: Laurel’s Dream by Pepper Basham — Journey into the Blue Ridge Mountains of 1918 where Laurel McAdams endures the challenges of a hard life while dreaming things can eventually improve. But trouble arrives in the form of an outsider. Having failed his British father again, Jonathan Taylor joins is uncle’s missionary endeavors as a teacher in a two-room schoolhouse. Laurel feels compelled to protect the tenderhearted teacher from the harsh realities of Appalachian life, even while his stories of life outside the mountains pull at Laurel’s imagination. Faced with angry parents over teaching methods, Laurel’s father’s drunken rages, and bad news from England, will Jonathan leave and never return, or will he stay and let love bloom? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Homeward Journey by Misty M. Beller — Finally free from her dead husband’s addicted lifestyle, Rachel Gray and her young son set out for a new life in the wilderness of the Canadian territories. She is reluctant to accept help from another man, but after a bear threatens her son’s life, she agrees to accompany two God-fearing brothers who are traveling to the same area. Slowly, she begins to trust the one named Seth. Despite Rachel’s best efforts, she can’t seem to fight her attraction to Seth—until a secret from his past proves he had more in common with her husband than she thought. When a new peril threatens her son’s life, she must choose between trusting in what she can control, or the man who her heart says is trustworthy, no matter his previous sins. The path she chooses just may determine whether she can step into the new life God has in store for them all. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Stepping into the Light by Candee Fick — With war looming and a madwoman in their midst, the only hope for a peaceful future may lie in a marriage alliance between a disfigured recluse of the Gunn clan and the overlooked second son of Clan Sinclair. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Under the Midnight Sun by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse — Tayler Hale is ahead of her time as one of the first women naturalists. She has always loved adventure and the great outdoors, and her remote job location also helps keep her away from the clutches of the man to whom she once made a foolish promise. It seems she must keep running, however, and in secret, her boss from Yellowstone arranges for a new job . . . in Alaska. The popular Curry Hotel continues to thrive in 1929 as more visitors come to Alaska and venture into the massive national park surrounding Denali. Recent graduate Thomas Smith has returned to the hotel and the people he considers family. But when a woman naturalist comes to fill the open position and he must work with her, everything becomes complicated. The summer brings unexpected guests and trouble to Curry. With his reputation at stake, will Thomas be able to protect Tayler from the danger that follows? (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

Devotion by Olivia Rae — Injured and unable to make his living by the sword, Sir Theo de Born needs to secure his keep by becoming an educated man. As he finds himself falling for his reluctant teacher, he learns of her plan to leave England before the winter sets in. How can he convince her to stay and fulfill her promise while protecting his heart? Denied her true love and sent away to a convent, Lady Rose de Payne has no choice but to accept to become Sir Theo’s teacher. However, she has a plan to escape the confines of her new prison and start fresh in a different country. As the chilly winds blow, her resolve begins to waver. Will she abandon Sir Theo to a miserable fate or will she give up her dreams to make his come true? (Historical Romance from HopeKnight Press)

The basic nugget of a story: Curiosity

Source: Bonner County Historical Society

Occasionally readers ask where I get my story ideas. One rich lode of ideas is studying real-life history, which I do often, both on my own and as a volunteer at a local history museum. Insatiably curious, I love digging into the past of places I’ve lived–it helps me feel more rooted and at home there. It’s a lot like snooping, but if you’re snooping through historical documents, you get to call it research. And the real-life past is an absolute  treasure trove of future story ideas for a historical fiction author.

My first two books grew out of my interested in the Chicago area, where I grew up. A new story that’s coming out next fall moves the action to the dense fir forests of northern Idaho. I’m also mulling a story around the Armistice of 1918. I collect these ideas on scraps of paper in a folder, and now and then I sift through the folder for inspiration. Not every chance idea makes it into a future story, of course, but as Grandma used to say, it’s all grist for the mill. In the meantime, I’ve learned something new, and am always the richer for it.

If you’re interested in early-20th-century history, The Winter 2019 issue of SANDPOINT magazine contains three of my articles about my current home in northern Idaho. One’s about the Armistice, the second skims over key events that shaped the region, and the third’s about Sears mail-order houses, a big deal in the early 20th century. (Maybe you or someone you know lives in one!)

You, too, might be surprised and delighted at what you can turn up by studying the history of your town or region. Start with the local library or historical society, and see where the path may lead.

Alone does not have to mean lonely … even on holidays

If you’re alone this holiday season, by choice or by circumstance, first of all, know that you are not an oddball. There is nothing wrong with you. While social expectations and Hallmark commercials drive home images of large, loving families enjoying a giant hugfest, like so many other things, the reality rarely lives up to the hype. Managing the wishes and expectations of extended family cal be a challenge. Even when it’s worth every effort, and we’re indeed blessed with those heart-tugging “moments” the media are always telling us to cherish, the sensation is fleeting. This is not to disparage large, loving families … by all means, if you’re part of one enjoy it to the fullest. But if you’re not, you needn’t despair. Your holidays may look different from the so-called norm, but they don’t need to be any less satisfying.

Whether or not you enjoy your solo holiday depends so much on your attitude. If you spend the day feeling sorry for yourself or telling yourself you’re somehow “less than” your neighbor who has twenty places set at her dining-room table, you are sure to feel miserable. On the other hand, if you embrace the blessings your quiet and serene holiday offers, Thanksgiving can be one of the richest and most satisfying days of the year.

I’ve been blessed in that I’ve always, as my grandmother used to put it, enjoyed my own company.  That’s just my personality. The thought of curling up by the fire with a good book is my idea of bliss. I realize it’s not for everyone. But think of things you do enjoy: long hikes in nature, hot baths, a chance to catch up on your favorite Netflix series or BBC costume dramas Do these activities have to involve other people to be “worth the trouble”? Not if you understand that you’re worth the trouble.

Here are a few random ways to enjoy your solo holiday, in no particular order:

*Remember what the holiday is all about: Thankfulness. Write out a list of your blessings from the mundane to the sublime, and spend time thanking God for each one. Appreciate a distraction-free stretch of time to bask in prayer and soak up the Word, free from the pressures of ordinary days.

*Enjoy the luxury of time and space. Realize that some harassed people would give anything to spend the day quietly, but family expectations won’t permit it, or someone’s feelings would get hurt if they didn’t participate. If that’s not your situation, rejoice. Stock up on some good books (here are a few suggestions!) and movies and allow yourself sink into another world of your choosing.

*Bring in your very favorite foods and cook a lovely meal for yourself. Not fond of the traditional turkey dinner? You’re freed from anyone else’s expectations –cook up a steak if you want, or spaghetti, or pizza, and serve it on your best dishes.  It’s your holiday as much as anyone else’s–feast the way you want (or not at all, if you don’t feel like it–but only if you don’t feel like it, not because you don’t feel worthy of it…because you are).

*Get up and get moving. Take that long walk in the woods (properly dressed so you some hunter doesn’t mistake you for a deer!). Getting some sunshine, fresh air, and exercise will lift your spirits. If the weather’s lousy, put on your favorite tunes and dance around the living room, with nobody there to criticize or complain.

*Reach out. To be sure, connect with far-flung family and friends by phone or Skype or social media. But if they’re all together somewhere and that makes you feel even more isolated, keep the conversation cheerful and brief. If you know someone else who’s also on their own, team up and share a meal. Or help serve at a community dinner. Or take time to visit a nursing home or retirement facility, where someone might appreciate seeing a friendly face.

I guess my best advice would be this: Don’t compare your holiday–or your life, for that matter– to someone else’s. Don’t automatically assume that someone else’s plans are superior to your own, or that you’re somehow inferior for spending a holiday by yourself. Every person’s life is a blend of good and bad, choices we’re proud of and those we regret, blessings God had bestowed and those he’s withheld. Embrace this season of your life. If you don’t care for it it, think about what you can do between now and then to make next year different. But don’t assume the grass is greener over there. With time, attention, and care you might find your own pasture is as green and soft as you could hope it would be.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my dear Sparklers! I’m very thankful for YOU!

Newsletter

Twitter!

Facebook!

Amazon

Here's a quick link to some of my books on Amazon:
Jennifer Lamont Leo