A Sparkling Vintage Life

historical fiction

COVER REVEAL! The Highlanders

Cue the bagpipes! The Highlanders are coming! Four historical-romance novellas, four authors, four fetching Scotsmen aiming to win your heart. And, yes, one of them is mine. 🙂

My story, “The Violinist,” takes you to 1915 Idaho. Homesick lumberjack Callan MacTavish despairs of ever seeing his Scottish homeland again. With kindness and patience, music teacher Rose Marchmont reaches a part of Callan’s heart he’d long ago locked away. She sees beyond his rough exterior to the artistic heart beneath. He longs for more than he can offer her, but she doesn’t know about the secret trauma that keeps him from crossing the sea.

Coming this November–pre-order your copy today!

 

No foolin’! Fresh new fiction for April

April 2019 New Releases More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.
Children’s:
The Heart Changer by Jarm Del Boccio — Miriam is asked to do the impossible: serve the wife of Naaman, commander of the Syrian army. Clinging to treasured memories of home and faith, Miriam faces captivity with bitterness. Little does she know the Heart Changer is preparing her for a greater mission — far beyond what she could imagine. (Children’s from Ambassador International)
Contemporary Romance:
Faith and Hope by Amy R. Anguish — Younger sister Hope has lost her job, her car, and her boyfriend all in one day. Her well-laid plans for life have gone sideways, as has her hope in God. Older sister Faith is finally getting her dream-come-true after years of struggles and prayers. But when her mom talks her into letting Hope move in for the summer, will the stress turn her dream into a nightmare? Is her faith in God strong enough to handle everything? For two sisters who haven’t gotten along in years, this summer together could be a disaster…or it could lead them to a closer relationship with each other and God. Can they overcome all life is throwing at them? Or is this going to destroy their relationship for good? (Contemporary Romance from Mantle Rock Publishing) Match Made in Heaven by Julie Arduini — Beth Prescott wants to make a difference with the senior citizens she serves as a volunteer coordinator, but their matchmaking efforts leave her guarded. She’s experienced too much pain to make that leap again. Dean Kellerman returns to the Finger Lakes area to help his grandfather and heal his own broken heart. He’s recommitted his life to Christ, and doesn’t want any distractions. When his grandfather needs assistance with a senior program, it places Dean right in Beth’s path. Can these two surrender their pasts to Christ and have faith in each other and their future? (Contemporary Romance from Surrendered Scribe Media) An Amish Reunion by Amy Clipston, Kathleen Fuller, Kathleen Irvin, and Beth WisemanTheir True Home by Amy Clipston: Marlene Bawell’s new friendship with an old crush is threatened when change once again disrupts the home she’s tried to make in Bird-in-Hand. A Reunion of Hearts by Beth Wiseman: Separated after tragic grief, husband and wife Ruth and Gideon Beiler are reunited when they accept an invitation to a family reunion they each believe the other has declined. A Chance to Remember by Kathleen Fuller: Cevilla Schlabach, Birch Creek’s resident octogenarian matchmaker, is surprised when Richard, a man from her Englisch past, arrives in Birch Creek for a visit. While he and Cevilla take several walks down memory lane, they wonder what the future holds for them at this stage of life—friendship, or the possibility of something else? Mended Hearts by Kelly Irvin: Abandoned by her father, penitent single mother Hannah Kauffman finds support in her old friend Phillip, who has loved her for years, but fears risking another mistake by opening herself up to love. (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Thomas Nelson and Zondervan]) Her New Amish Family by Carrie Lighte — Widower Seth Helmuth needs a mother for his sons, but for now, hiring the Englischer next door as their nanny will have to do. Trina Smith plans to stay in Amish country only long enough to claim her inheritance and sell her grandfather’s house. But as she falls for Seth, his twin boys and Amish life, will she inherit a home and a family? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin]) Beauty for Ashes by Kathleen Neely — Well-known novelist Nathan Drummond revisits painful memories when family responsibilities force him to return to his home town. Although he’d intended the living situation to be temporary, Nathan didn’t count on falling in love. As guilty memories threaten a return of panic attacks, Nathan begins to write a novel paralleling the tragic event from his youthful folly. Will the novel be seen as a work of fiction, or will it expose his secret? (Contemporary Romance from Harbourlight Books [Pelican]) Restoring Her Faith by Jennifer Slattery — An artist fighting to save her career must find a way to work with the handsome yet stubborn cowboy overseeing a church restoration project–without falling for his southern charm. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin]) Sweet On You by Becky Wade — Britt Bradford and Zander Ford have been the best of friends since they met thirteen years ago. Unbeknown to Britt, Zander has been in love with her for just as long. As they work together to investigate Zander’s uncle’s mysterious death, will the truth of what lies between them also, finally, come to light? (Contemporary Romance from Bethany House [Baker])
General Contemporary:
The Edge of Mercy by Heidi Chiavaroli — A dying request from an elderly neighbor forces a woman in a troubled marriage to find the 300-year-old story of a young colonial woman—one forced into an unwanted betrothal but drawn to a man forbidden to her by society. (General Contemporary from Hope Creek Publishers) All My Tears by Kathy McKinsey — Meet five women who struggle with life’s deep sorrows. Beth fights to recover from alcoholism and to mend her relationships with her family. Ann doesn’t believe God will forgive her. Kathleen wrestles with a years-old fear and with saving her marriage. Cassie needs to learn to deal with chronic depression. Martie finds herself the single parent of the eight-year-old niece she barely knows when the child’s parents die in a car wreck. See how God gives them the gifts of hope, healing, and love. (General Contemporary from Mantle Rock Publishers)
Historical:
The Refuge by Ann H Gabhart — Can Darcie Goodwin find love and a way to keep her baby in a community that doesn’t believe in marriage or individual family units? (Historical from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)
Historical Romance:
The Artful Match by Jennifer Delamere — At loose ends in London after a near-tragedy, Cara Bernay finds herself at odds with the Earl of Morestowe after she befriends his brother, a talented but troubled young artist. Soon she finds herself drawn to the earl as she becomes more involved with his family. Like Cara, they are suffering from unresolved mistakes in their past. Can they form an unlikely alliance and find a way to a new beginning? (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker]) The Golden Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse — Olivia Brighton finds herself widowed and working her brother’s restaurant in San Francisco during the height of the 1849 Gold Rush. Even though she receives at least twenty marriage proposals a day, she will never marry a gold miner. Her brother’s friend Joseph Sawyer has gotten caught up in local politics and the plight of Chinese in forced labor. The more Joseph gets pulled into investigating crime in the city, the less Olivia sees of the compassionate man. And just when she thinks she could love again, a fire threatens to steal all hope. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)
Romantic Suspense:
Justice Delivered by Patricia Bradley — An escaped victim of sex trafficking must find the courage to report her captors to the authorities—some of whom could be corrupt—when her niece is kidnapped by the ringleader. (Romantic Suspense from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group) You Shouldn’t Have by Susan Page Davis — “I SAW MY NEIGHBOR MURDER HIS WIFE!” But the police don’t believe Petra Wilson. There’s no body, no evidence, no murder. But Petra knows what she saw. And now her dangerous neighbor knows it, too. Her sisters introduce her to private investigator Joe Tarleton. Petra tells Joe her story, expecting him to decide there is no case. But the dedicated P.I. accepts her word, and he vows to uncover the truth. Still, he can’t guard Petra twenty-four hours a day. In spite of her precautions, her neighbor makes inroads in her vulnerability. Petra is left open to a killer intent on silencing the only living witness. (Romantic Suspense from Tea Tin Press) Beauty in Battle by Robin Patchen — Harper doesn’t want to return to Maryland to face the police. The mess she left behind makes her look guilty of the worst, but it’s too late to run again. Red is safe and the authorities are waiting. At least Jack is by her side. Now that Jack knows the truth, his feelings for Harper are deeper than ever. He’s not about to leave her side, especially knowing a killer is after her. But Derrick is on their trail, and he’s come unhinged. And he may not be the biggest threat lurking. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published [ACFW QIP])
Speculative:
Flight of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse — Selene Ravenwood, once the heir to House Ravenwood, is now an exile. On the run and free of her family’s destiny, Selene hopes to find the real reason her family was given the gift of dreamwalking. But first she must adapt to her new role as wife to Lord Damien Maris, the man she was originally assigned to kill. While adjusting to her marriage and her home in the north, her power over dreams begins to grow. As the strongest dreamwalker to exist in ages, her expanding power attracts not only nightmares but the attention of the Dark Lady herself. With a war looming on the horizon and a wicked being after her gift, Selene is faced with a choice: accept the Dark Lady’s offer or search out the one who gave her the gift of dreamwalking. One path offers power, the other freedom. But time is running out, and if she doesn’t choose soon, her decision will be made for her. (Speculative Fantasy from Bethany House [Baker]) Snow Globe Travelers: Samuel’s Legacy by K.A. Cummins — Transported into another world, an Austrian girl must face a genetically-engineered warrior with an army of vicious hybrids. (Hard Science Fiction (for Children), Independently Published) The Baggage Handler by David Rawlings — A hothead businessman coming to the city for a showdown meeting to save his job. A mother of three hoping to survive the days at her sister’s house before her niece’s wedding. And a young artist pursuing his father’s dream so he can keep his own alive. When David, Gillian, and Michael each take the wrong suitcases from baggage claim, the airline directs them to retrieve their bags at a mysterious facility in a deserted part of the city. There they meet the enigmatic Baggage Handler, who shows them there is more in their baggage than what they have packed, and carrying it with them is slowing them down in ways they can’t imagine. And they must deal with it before they can leave. (Speculative Allegory from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Thomas Nelson and Zondervan])

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 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

It’s a Bouncing Baby Book!

Ain’t Misbehavin’ launches today! To celebrate, I thought you might like to hear the song that inspired the title. While the song was first published in 1929, this clip is from a 1943 movie called Stormy Weather in which the composer, Fats Waller, sings it. It’s been covered by many artists over the years. (If you have a favorite version, please share!) I’ll keep looking for an original 1929 recording to see if it’s any different.

Sparkling Vintage Interview with Karen Barnett, author of THE ROAD TO PARADISE

**UPDATE** Kit Tosello won a free e-book copy of The Road to Paradise. Thanks for stopping by, Kit! I know you’ll love the book.**

When I was ten, my family took a road trip from Chicago to San Francisco and back. One memorable highlight was our stay at Yosemite National Park. I was amazed then, and still am today, at the incredible beauty of America’s national parks, and the leaders who had the foresight to preserve them for the public to enjoy for decades to come.

Since then, I’ve visited several other parks, including Hot Springs, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Parks–each breathtakingly gorgeous in its own way. But topping my to-visit list currently is Washington’s Mount Rainier National Park.

In 1901, renowned naturalist John Muir wrote of this park, “Of all the fire-mountains which, like beacons, once blazed along the Pacific Coast, Mount Rainier is the noblest.” It seems fitting, then,  that author Karen Barnett chose Mount Rainier as the setting for her historical novel, The Road to Paradise, the first in the new Vintage National Parks series.

The Road to Paradise (published by Waterbrook) takes the reader on a journey to Mount Rainier National Park through the eyes of Margie Lane, a naive young socialite who is drawn to the park by her love of nature as well as her wish to escape an undesirable situation at home. The year is 1927, but unlike in the cities, the only things “roaring” in the park are bears and mountain lions. New to park life, Margie at first butts heads with the reclusive park ranger assigned to help her get her bearings. But soon they find themselves working together to stop an unscrupulous businessman from ruining the park for his own profit. The Road to Paradise offers plenty of romance and intrigue against the rugged, untamed beauty of the mountain wilderness.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Road to Paradise, especially the details of what it was like for a woman to work there during my very favorite era, the 1920s. Come join Karen Barnett and me in our imaginary park lodge as we settle into comfortable chairs near the great stone fireplace and have a chat.

Jennifer Lamont Leo: Tell us a bit about the story behind The Road to Paradise. You used to be a forest ranger, right? Tell us a little about that. Is that where you got your inspiration?

Paradise Lodge at Mount Rainier as it appeared in Margie’s day.

Karen Barnett: That’s definitely what inspired the Vintage National Parks novels. I worked as a park ranger at both Mount Rainier National Park and at Oregon’s Silver Falls State Park. I started working in parks while I was still in college and graduate school and had some of the best summers of my life doing so. There’s nothing like living in a national park all summer, spending time with people who are enjoying the beautiful outdoors, and then having the park all to yourself after they head home. I still remember grabbing my breakfast and sitting outside the park housing at Mount Rainier watching the sunrise turning the peak purple and pink. The joke is always that rangers are paid in sunrises and sunsets. It’s actually pretty true.

I’d been working for Oregon State Parks for a couple of years when we decided to start our family. I stepped away from park work to become a stay-at-home mom and to follow a new dream—writing. It took over a decade to get my writing career off the ground, though, so I don’t encourage aspiring writers to quit their day job.

JLL: “Forest ranger” sounds like a dream job to many of us desk-bound types. Do you ever wish you still had that job?

Author Karen Barnett

KB: I do–often. I miss working in beautiful places and opening people’s eyes to the intricacies of the natural world. I sometimes have to remind myself that it was also a draining job. When you put on the big hat, you’re a public commodity and always have to be ready to represent the park’s public image or enforce park regulations. You also are expected to work weekends, evenings, summers, and holidays. Whenever the rest of the world is out playing, you’re on the job. And park housing wasn’t always about the sunrises–think cramped quarters that you share with rodents and large insects. So there are definitely good and bad aspects of the job. But I still miss it.

JLL: Have conditions changed much for National Park employees since the 1920s? If so, how? What things remain similar?

KB: In preparation for writing The Road to Paradise, I spent time in the archives at Mount Rainier reading through the Chief Ranger’s monthly reports for 1927 to get a feeling for what my hero would be doing on a daily basis. I was surprised to find him doing some very basic work like repairing phone wires, refinishing wood floors, patrolling trails, and such. Today that position is much more administrative. In fact, I’d say the NPS as a whole has become more streamlined and specialized. Rangers are hired for specific types of jobs. I was part of the interpretive staff—the naturalists who run the campfire programs, offer guided hikes, answer questions at the visitor centers, and get to work with cute little junior rangers. Other rangers serve as park police, climbing rangers, natural resource stewards, fee collectors, trail crew, maintenance, etc.

Also, as shown in The Road to Paradise, 1920s-era park service was a man’s world. There were a few isolated cases of women rangers scattered around the country, but the staff was overwhelmingly male. Parks still struggle with cases of discrimination and sexual harassment (there have been some very public cases in the past ten years), but I wasn’t aware of any in the parks where I worked. [If you’d like to know more about the history of women in the parks, head over to my website and sign up for my email newsletter. You’ll receive a link to a free download of my “Women in the National Parks” e-booklet.]

JLL: The Vintage National Parks series follows your earlier series set in San Francisco. As the old song goes, does your “heart belong” in the West? Do you find the region a particularly rich source of story ideas?

KB: I’ve spent most of my life in the west, so it’s a comfortable place for me to set novels. I’m familiar with the lay of the land, the climate, the smells, and sounds. That frees up some of my research time to focus on the history rather than the basics of the setting. But with that said, I’m not opposed to writing farther afield in the future. I have a simmering story idea that centers around a hot spring resort in Georgia, and if I end up writing more books about National Parks (after these three), I’d love to explore parks located in other regions of the country.  

JLL: Do you share any personality traits in common with your main character, Margie? Is she based on anyone you know?

KB: I originally based Margie on my own experiences in the National Park Service. When I first started working as a ranger, I had a huge amount of enthusiasm and book knowledge, but no practical outdoors skills. As I wrote Margie’s character, however, she took on a voice all her own. She’s poetic, artistic, and whimsical—much more so than me. One reader compared her to Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne Shirley character, and I can definitely see that.

JLL: What inspires you to write historical fiction?

KB: I write historical fiction because I have a secret desire to travel through time. I’m not a genius inventor, so this is my way of accomplishing that dream.

JLL: How did you choose the time period(s) you write in?

KB: Both my debut novel (Mistaken) and the Golden Gate Chronicles were inspired by historical events, so the time periods were pretty set. With The Road to Paradise, I was looking to tell the story of women breaking into this male-dominated profession and the 1920s just felt like the right time for that to me. The 1920s and 30s were a period of massive change for our nation and also a golden age for our national parks. People were beginning to embrace the idea of family vacations and traveling for the purpose of recreation. Prior to that, most US travel was done for economic or family reasons.

JLL: What are some ways you “refill the well” of your creativity?

KB: That’s a great question and is something I’ve honestly struggled with in the past year. I used to say that watching TV and movies in my downtime inspired me (I’m a Netflix junkie), but I discovered recently that it had begun to actually sap my desire to write. So in recent months, I’ve started reading a lot more—coming back to my “first love” if you will. Seeing what some of my favorite authors are doing in their novels inspires me to get back to the computer and improve my own craft.

I also enjoy photography. My dad is a retired photographer, and he taught me a lot about viewing the world through a camera lens. I find that my favorite photos are the ones that tell a story, or at least hint at one.

JLL: What aspects of novel-writing do you enjoy most? Least?

KB: I love the research most of all. I get all giddy when I find a great book or webpage that will provide fodder for my writing. I also love to travel and immerse myself in the setting. Sometimes it’s tough for me to put the research aside and get on to the task of writing.

Least? The self doubt. Whenever I’m about two thirds of the way through the first draft of a manuscript, all the negative voices start chanting in my head:
You’ll never finish this.
Who would read this garbage?
Everyone’s going to realize you’re not really talented.
Why did you ever start this?
It makes me shudder just thinking about it. I don’t think the voices really abate until after the novel is published and the first reviews begin to roll in, but by then I’m on to another project. This writing business is not for the faint-hearted.

JLL: Are you a “plotter” or a “pantster”?

KB: I’m a pantster. I do write a loose synopsis so I know the general framework of the plot, but I leave myself lots of wiggle room. I like when the characters surprise me. Those moments always take me off-guard, but it’s also a lot of fun. I do have to say that being a pantster is also terrifying. The blinking cursor is NOT my friend.

JLL: What are you working on now?

KB: I’m currently writing the third book in the Vintage National Parks series. It is set in Yellowstone in 1934 and will feature a woman who has grown up in Yellowstone, a hero who has never been off the streets of Brooklyn, and one of FDR’s New Deal programs, the Civilian Conservation Corps. I’m still in the early stages of writing this one, and already the characters are flying off the page. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.

JLL: The Road to Paradise is part of a series, right? Tell us a little about the other books in the series.

KB: I guess I just told you about book three, didn’t I? Haha! The second book of the series is undergoing edits at my publishing house and will release this June. Where the Fire Falls is set in 1929 Yosemite. Olivia Rutherford has rocketed onto the watercolor art scene and mastered an avant-garde reputation to distract wealthy buyers from her family’s shameful past. When she is hired by a popular travel magazine to illustrate Yosemite and its one-of-a-kind Firefall, she hopes the lucrative contract will lift her and her sisters from poverty. Trail guide Clark Johnson knows a lot about running from your past, but he also knows that God sometimes uses Yosemite to show people who they really are—or rather, who He wants them to be.

 Thanks, Karen!

Look for The Road to Paradise and other books by Karen Barnett at your favorite bookseller. To enter to win a free e-book of The Road to Paradise, simply leave a comment below. I’ll pick a winner at random on Wednesday, December 6, 2017.

Announcing the Sparkling Vintage Ladies’ Reading Circle!

 

Big news, Sparklers! The brand-new Sparkling Vintage Ladies’ Reading Circle has opened its virtual doors on Facebook! We’ll be discussing historical fiction, mostly from (or set in) the early 20th century, starting in November with MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS by Agatha Christie.

Our goal is to read and discuss one book per month. If you’re a lady who enjoys reading historical fiction, come join us here, and be sure to invite any friends who might be interested!

White gloves optional.

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Sparkling Vintage Fiction: SARATOGA LETTERS by Elaine Marie Cooper

saratoga-letters-cover Today I’m delighted to welcome Elaine Marie Cooper to A Sparkling Vintage Life. Elaine’s newest novel, Saratoga Letters, set in New York during the Revolutionary War period, releases this week from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas.

Saratoga Letters tells the story of the Battle of Saratoga, the first great victory of the American Continental Army, through the eyes of Abigail, a patriotic woman forced by her Loyalist uncle to nurse wounded British soldiers. Two centuries later, the anniversary of the battle draws together Abby, an American, and a descendant of a British soldier, and adventure ensues. Bestselling author Laura Frantz says of the story, “Poignant and suspenseful by turns and graced with an uncommon spiritual depth, this novel is historical fiction that truly grabs your heartand feeds your soul. My favorite Elaine Cooper story to date!”

Enjoy listening in on our conversation, and if you have any comments or questions for Elaine, leave them below or get in touch with her at elainemariecooper.com or on Facebook.

Jennifer Lamont Leo: Welcome, Elaine! When will Saratoga Letters be published?

Elaine Marie Cooper: It releases October 4 and I am so excited! (JLL: That’s tomorrow, folks! Get your Amazon-clicking finger ready…)

JLL: The story is set in Saratoga, New York, in 1777. What has intrigued you about this time and place in history?

EMC: Several things. First, since I grew up in Massachusetts, I have long been enamored with the history of the beginnings of our country. But I was particularly drawn to Saratoga because my own ancestor fought in the battle there in 1777—as a British Redcoat! I had long wanted to visit the site because of that. When I was there, my writer’s muse became intrigued by the possibility of a multigenerational suspense story. This was a first for me and I’m very excited about this story!

JLL: What sparked your imagination for this particular story?

EMC: Believe it or not, it was a lost key to a motel room! Crazy, I know! All the “what-ifs” began to play in my mind and, before you know it, a plot birthed in my writer’s muse. 🙂

JLL: Tell us a bit about your research process for Saratoga Letters. Do you have any favorite resources that you turn to for research?

EMC: My very favorite sources for research are historians. I love picking the brains of those who share my love for history. They never ask why I need a minor detail about something—they just understand. Saratoga Letters took on a whole new challenge however because I was researching two completely separate centuries. It was a huge challenge to get details about 1977 because there was no internet then and many of the real-life details were often hidden in old newspaper stories or files in a historical archive. The great part about this was meeting so many helpful contacts in the Saratoga area. I’m so grateful for their help!

JLL: What do you most hope readers will take away from Saratoga Letters?

EMC: I think the key thought that readers of this book may take away is a truth about good vs. evil.

JLL: Are there any particular triumphs or challenges you’re facing in your
writing life these days?

EMC: My biggest challenge this past year has been my health. I had a total knee replacement a year ago that became infected. The resulting surgeries and course of serious antibiotics really challenged me! I’m so relieved to say that this seems to be behind me now and I am back to writing again.

JLL: How do you stay spiritually grounded during the writing and publishing process?

EMC: If I don’t start my day reading the Bible and praying, I might as well not bother to write that day! I feel so strongly that the message in my words must glorify God and I pray that it always will.

JLL: Are there any particular authors and/or books that have inspired your writing journey?

EMC: Laura Frantz!! She is my historical fiction hero! I cannot tell you what a joy it is to have her endorse Saratoga Letters!

JLL: What’s on your music playlist?

EMC: The soundtrack to “Son of God.”

JLL: Any movies (old or new) that you’d recommend?

EMC: One of my favorite historical movies is Last of the Mohicans. It’s definitely not for children, but it is an amazing look at early America during the French and Indian War. I also love the 1939 movie Drums Along the Mohawk. The Patriot with Mel Gibson, the AMC TV series Turn, and the PBS series Poldark are among my favorite historicals, as well.

JLL: What’s the next book project coming up for you?

EMC: I currently have two children’s books with my agent. It is a series of books that features siblings of children with special needs. I also will be researching a sequel to the 1777 portion of Saratoga Letters. I am VERY excited about that!

JLL: Is there anything you’d like readers to know about you that I haven’t asked? If so, tell us!

EMC: I honestly never imagined that I would become a writer of historical fiction. I spent years working as a nurse, and the fact that I now immerse myself in little-known historical tidbits is quite amusing to me! But I am so grateful to the Lord for allowing me this opportunity to write stories that I love and, I pray, that my readers will love as well.

JLL: Thanks, Elaine!

EMC: Thank you so much, Jenny, for having me as your guest!

Snap up your copy of Saratoga Letters!

Elaine M. Cooper

Elaine M. Cooper

Award winning author Elaine Marie Cooper is the author of Saratoga Letters, Fields of the Fatherless, Bethany’s Calendar and the historical trilogy called the Deer Run Saga. Her passions are her family, her faith in Christ, and the history of the American Revolution. She grew up in Massachusetts, the setting for many of her historical novels.

Her upcoming release is Legacy of Deer Run (CrossRiver Media, Dec, 2016)

Cooper has been writing since she penned her first short story at age eleven. She began researching for her first novel in 2007. Her writing has also appeared in Fighting Fear, Winning the War at Home by Edie Melson and the romance anthology, I Choose You. She has also written articles for Prayer Connect Magazine, Splickety Prime Magazine, Better Homes & Gardens, and Life: Beautiful Magazine. She began her professional writing career as a newspaper freelancer.

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Sparkling Vintage Fiction: A RELUCTANT MELODY by Sandra Ardoin

a-reluctant-melody-cover Greetings, Sparklers!

I had the delight of reading A Reluctant Melody by Sandra Ardoin, an engaging historical novel set in 1890s North Carolina. It’s the story of Kit Barnes, a recovering alcoholic seeking a place where he can establish a mission to help others who are driven to drink, and widow Joanna Cranston Stewart, who happens to own the perfect place for such a mission. She also also happens to be someone from Kit’s past–the past he is trying so very hard to overcome. Meanwhile, Joanna is coping with some dark secrets of her own. Toss in a blackmailer and you have a powerful story that won’t let you go.

Recently Sandra kindly let me grill her about the book. Enjoy our conversation!

sandra-ardoin_headshot

Sandra Ardoin

Jennifer Lamont Leo:  Sandra, tell us about your inspiration to write A Reluctant Melody. How did the story come about?

Sandra Ardoin: For my 2014 Christmas novella The Yuletide Angel, I needed an internal conflict for my hero, so I gave Hugh an estranged, alcoholic, ne’er-do-well brother named Kit, who had betrayed him by seducing the woman Hugh had intended to marry. Years later, Kit shows up on Hugh’s doorstep, sober and spiritually redeemed. Does Hugh trust and forgive him or not?

I love it when an author takes a minor character who interests me (the reader) and develops a new story “starring” that character. And I’m always writing a secondary character who intrigues me (the writer). As I wrote the scenes with Kit, I wanted to know more about him and reunite him with Joanna, the woman he’d seduced, so I proposed a story to Ann Tatlock, my editor at Heritage Beacon Fiction. A Reluctant Melody released last January.

JLL: A Reluctant Melody deals with the thorny topic of alcoholism, along with the brighter side of recovery. In your research, did you discover any differences in attitudes toward alcohol and its treatment in the book’s time period (1890s) versus today?

SA: These days, we consider alcoholism a disease and alcoholics can seek physical and psychiatric help to break the drinking cycle. In Kit’s day, there were no rehab centers or Alcoholics Anonymous. (The latter didn’t come along until the 1930s.) Many doctors believed in weaning a patient off alcohol through the use of other drugs like opiates. Kit didn’t believe in compounding the problem by exchanging one drug for another. He was a little ahead of his time. 🙂 I wanted his mission to encompass the shelter efforts of the era’s Salvation Army with Christian encouragement, a bit of a holistic approach when it came to healthy eating and exercise, and the encouragement of AA.

JLL: Why did you choose to set the story in North Carolina in the 1890s? Any particular reason?

yuletide-angel-cover SA: I set The Yuletide Angel in northern Virginia and the backstory in Philadelphia, but didn’t want my heroine, Joanna, near either of those places. It added a little more conflict to transplant her in the South through marriage. I also wanted a town that wasn’t city-sized, but not too small. After some research, I created a growing fictional town that was a cross between the NC town I live in and Dillworth, a community that is now part of Charlotte. I loved the idea of adding a horse-drawn trolley and a recreational park with a small lake—both things Dillworth had in the 1890s.

JLL: I loved the theme of music threaded throughout the book. Joanna seeks solace in playing the piano. Are you a musician, too?

SA: I’m afraid the closest I come to being a musician is singing along with some of my favorite country music performers on the radio. Believe me, no one would pay to hear me sing to them! 🙂

JLL: Can we look forward to a sequel?

SA: I was asked this question recently by a reader. Right now, I have no plans for another book in this line. That doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about it, though. As I wrote, I considered doing something with Ben Greer or Darcy Baird. I think they’d both like to experience a happy-ever-after.

JLL: Tell us about your writing journey. Was it your life’s plan to become a novelist?

SA: I’ve had a long and uphill writing journey. I say “uphill” not referring to difficulty seeking publication, but in length of project. (Think of an upside-down pyramid. :)) I began with small projects—greeting cards and posters–and was first published in 1986. In 1992, while my child napped, I tried my hand at short stories (mostly children’s) for denominational publications. The more I wrote, the more I was published. Off and on, I tried to write a novel, but always believed God was saying it was not my time … until 2008. My first completed novel is buried somewhere in a virtual file and will stay that way unless He prompts me to rewrite it. Then came a handful of other unpublished, yet completed, novels. My first published book was The Yuletide Angel for Heritage Beacon Fiction. In turn, it spawned my first novel A Reluctant Melody.

JLL: What other projects (writing and otherwise) are currently on your horizon?

SA: Frankly, the past several years have been pretty hectic with work, so I’m taking a little time to breathe, although that doesn’t mean I’m not writing.

This summer I completed a pitch contest for Love Inspired Historical, making it to the final round—submission of a full manuscript. Unfortunately, publication didn’t work out, but it was a wonderful educational experience in learning to write for them. I’ll be submitting there again in the future.

I’ve written in the historical genre for eight years, my favorite time period being the second half of the 1800s. However, I’m also a lifelong fan of reading contemporary romantic suspense, so I’m brainstorming a series in that genre while also wanting to keep my hand in the past.

JLL: Where can readers connect with you on the Internet?

Find me at www.sandraardoin.com and on the Seriously Write blog. I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and Pinterest. I love connecting with readers, so please become a member of my reader community by signing up for my newsletter. You’ll receive quarterly updates and other tidbits about my writing.

JLL: If there’s anything you’d like to tell readers, please do!

SA: I just want to say I’m so thankful God gave me an outlet for getting those crazy people out of my head :), as well as an opportunity to minister in a fun way that suits this introvert’s shy personality. If God uses one of my stories to touch or change a person, it’s all good.

JLL: Thanks, Sandra. I appreciate your taking the time to chat with me! Blessings on your writing journey.

SA: Thanks so much for letting me share, Jennifer!

Look for A Reluctant Melody at your favorite bookseller.

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Jennifer Lamont Leo