A Sparkling Vintage Life

historical fiction


My debut novel, You’re the Cream in My Coffee, is scheduled to be published exactly three months from today!

Tick … tick … tick …

For updates on the book and all sorts of other newsy tidbits (like exclusive giveaways and other goodies), sign up to get my newsletter at right. It’s free, it’s fun, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

We have a winner!

The randomly-chosen winner of a copy of Jan Cline‘s heart-stirring new novel EMANCIPATED HEART is Violetta Davis! Congratulations, Violetta. Check your e-mail for a note from me (Jennifer).

Thank you so much to everyone who entered! I hope you will continue to visit this blog, where we talk about Sparkling Vintage Fiction…among other things. 🙂

emancipated heart

Hana Kato and her family are nearing the end of their confinement in a WWII Japanese American internment camp. Her beloved Papa has been taken to prison, and Hana works hard to keep the family together until he can join them in preparation for their release. Surviving the attack on Pearl Harbor, and years of enduring difficult living conditions has tested Hana’s faith and trust. Although she stays strong through trials and tragedy, her resolve is weakened as she fights her affections for two men. Will she choose the rebel Japanese young man? Or will the bright Caucasian doctor she works with win her love? Emancipated Heart will hold your attention with a setting of an interesting era in American history, and a lesson in true loyalty, love and forgiveness, told through a Christian worldview.

Sparkling Vintage Read with Giveaway!: EMANCIPATED HEART by Jan Cline

emancipated heart The other day I wrote about a fun “Forties Frolic” event set at a USO during World War II. This event focused on the positive aspects of life on the homefront during the war: the determined efforts to support the men in uniform, the camaraderie of a community pulling together during difficult times, and even the cheerful Big Band music that lifted the spirits and soothed the heart.

But despite these nostalgic aspects, the reality is that war is hell, and even on the homefront there was a darker side. One of the more shameful blots on U.S. history is the internment of Japanese-Americans in internment camps for the duration of the war.

Jan Cline

Jan Cline

Pacific Northwest author Jan Cline has just released a novel whose story revolves around one such internment camp in Wyoming.  Emancipated Heart follows one family through the trials of life behind barbed wire. “Considering the current events in our country, this book will remind us how easily history repeats itself, and how God calls us to act humanely in all situations,” Jan explains.  “The topic of internment is not well taught in history books. Emancipated Heart will inform and educate, all while providing an entertaining, enjoyable read for anyone, especially history lovers.”

I asked Jan to tell us about Emancipated Heart and the writing life, and she graciously agreed. Better still, she’s going to send a copy of Emancipated Heart to a lucky winner! Simply post a comment below or e-mail me privately at jenny (at) jenniferlamontleo.com to be entered in a Rafflecopter drawing for a copy of Emancipated Heart. I’ll hold the drawing on Tuesday, April 12, 2016, and will notify the winner.

Let’s give a warm Sparkling Vintage welcome to Jan Cline!

Jennifer Lamont Leo: First, the basics. Where did you grow up? Where do you live now? Husband, kids, pets…?

Jan Cline: I grew up in central California and moved to Washington State in Jr. High. Been here ever since with my hubby of 43 years. We have 3 children and 8 grandchildren – most live nearby but some are across the U.S. We have a Yorkie named Cooper who rules the house and pretty much runs our life!

JLL: Tell us about your writing journey and how you got started as an author.

I’ve been writing since childhood, and started writing devotionals as an adult and some other non-fiction pieces for magazines and other publications. I always thought I would forever be a non-fiction writer. But a friend dared me to write fiction and I gave it a try. After completing my first “novel” I was hooked. Of course it was terrible, but it got me started on the road to learning how to write fiction.

JLL: How did you get inspired to write Emancipated Heart?

JC: I was researching for another story I planned to write and happened on information about the Japanese American’s plight during WWII. I was fascinated and knew I had to write about it.

JLL: Tell us about your research process for Emancipated Heart.

JC: I LOVE to research and I did extensive reading on the topic, and found several documentaries with personal interviews. I decided to visit the Heart Mountain Internment Camp in Wyoming to see for myself what it might have been like. They have a wonderful interpretive center there and it captured my imagination. I visited Japantown and Chinatown in the Seattle area and read and viewed everything I could get my hands on. Most Japanese who were interned are not willing to talk too much about their experience, so I didn’t have the opportunity to speak personally with many who were interned. I returned to Heart Mountain when the manuscript was done and was even more moved – Heart Mt. is what I modeled my story after.

JLL: Did writing Emancipated Heart reflect your own life and/or faith journey in any way? If so, discuss.

JC: I think the theme of freedom is one we can all relate to – especially as it concerns the message of Christianity. And I think we have all been treated unfairly at some time. I remember as a young girl being looked down upon for being poor, and that’s just a very small experience with prejudice. I discovered the Japanese American people of that time were far more dignified that I would have been under those circumstances. I was encouraged in my own faith, just by the mere perseverance of these people.

JLL: What 2 or 3 people have had the greatest influence on your writing thus far, and why?

JC: I have been coached by Susan May Warren, who always encouraged me in my writing. She has been an inspiration to me. My friends in the business like James L. Rubart, Mick Silva, Tracie Peterson, and others, have been faithful to encourage and inspire me by their creative and spiritual walks. I have been blessed that way.

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

JC: I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis about 8 years ago, and I find it difficult to keep up with life and writing sometimes. The challenges of chronic pain is something I have to deal with daily, but writing is a good escape, when I’m able. Being disciplined is always an issue for me, so I’m trying hard to do better now.

JLL: How do you stay spiritually grounded?

JC: Writing and being accountable to the message God has asked me to share is a way for me to stay dependent on Him. I know that without Him I would write only for self-glory, and I would surely fail.

JLL: What reading material is next to your favorite reading spot?

JC: I am a slow reader, so I don’t get as much read in a year as I would like. Some of my favorite authors are Charles Martin, James L. Rubart, Susan May Warren, and Lynn Austen. I also enjoy reading non-fiction – especially by Ravi Zacharis and other great spiritual leaders.

JLL: What’s on your music playlist?

JC: I love listening to movie soundtracks. I have several different playlists to listen to depending on what I’m writing.

JLL: Are there any can’t-miss TV series, blogs, podcasts, vlogs, etc., that you’d recommend?

JC: For podcasts, I recommend Author Media and Write from the Deep. Blogs – I have a million I love, but the key ones I’m following right now are Jane Friedman, Chip MacGregor, My Book Therapy. TV series? Anything Alaska!

JLL: What do you do for fun?

We own a cabin up at Twin Lakes, Idaho, and we spend a lot of time there. Also love to golf, spend time with grandchildren, and I’m a craft addict for sure. We love to travel, and have been to many wonderful places around the world.

JLL: What’s the next project coming up next from Jan Cline, Author?

JC: I’m working on what I hope will be a series of women’s fiction set in the depression days up through WWII. I also peck away at a Christmas novella I hope to have out this Christmas season. I will keep doing all the promo and marketing for Emancipated Heart as well. I’d love for readers to pick up a copy and also help spread the word, AND write Amazon reviews for all the books they read!

JLL: Where can readers learn more about you and your books?

JC: Visit my website, jancline.net, sign up for my newsletter/blog, and receive a free download of a booklet I wrote titled “What to Do While You’re Waiting to Be Published.”

JLL: Thanks for chatting with us today, Jan.

JC: Thanks so much, Jenny, for this opportunity to share with your readers. It’s been a treat!

Jan Cline is an author and speaker from the Pacific Northwest. She has been involved with the writing/publishing community for several years, and was the founder and director of the Inland NW Christian Writers conference for 5 years. She teaches at writer’s conferences and speaks for women’s groups in the Northwest.

Jan enjoys golf, attending her grandchildren’s sports activities, and loves to bake – proud to be called the queen of cheesecakes by her friends and family. She also indulges heavily in crafts such as quilting, painting, and scrapbooking. When she needs a break from a hectic life, she and her husband of 40+ years escape to their cabin on a northern Idaho lake.


Sparkling Vintage Book Review: On Shifting Sand by Allison Pittman

on shifting sand While engrossed in Allison Pittman’s latest novel, On Shifting Sand, I continually found myself heading to the kitchen for a tall, cool glass of water to slake my thirst. Yes, it’s been a dry, hot summer here in Idaho, I told myself, but what gives? Then I realized that the cause of my thirst was Allison’s vivid, you-are-there descriptions of daily life in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

“We feel thirst everywhere,” she writes in protagonist Nola’s viewpoint, “–our parched throats, of course, and the corners of our mouths. It seems, sometimes, that we are drying up from within. Our lungs rasp with every breath, our bones threaten to snap themselves to powder. There is not enough water to drink, to wash, to bathe. We are never quenched. we are never clean.”

Gaaack! Pass the pitcher!

Of course, I’d heard about the Dust Bowl (or Dirty Thirties, as they’re sometimes called). I’d read Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath along with millions of other American high-schoolers over the years. But On Shifting Sand gave me my first glimpse in up-close detail what it was like to live through it, day by day. My ancestors experienced the Great Depression in other contexts, but not the dust storms that plagued the Great Plains. No wonder so many “Okies” packed up and left–for most of them, there was literally no other alternative. The storms took away their homes, their livelihoods, and even people they loved.

As I read On Shifting Sand, the descriptions of storms kept me riveted, almost as if the weather was a character unto itself.

This was important, because I found it hard, if not impossible, to warm up to Nola, a pastor’s wife in a small Oklahoma town. While I sympathized with the near-impossibility of keeping a clean and healthy home in the constant dust storms, and to feed her children on practically no income, her constant complaining and chronic dissatisfaction with her lot in life wore on my nerves. When a drifter comes to town and she makes terrible choices to try to make herself feel better . . . well, at that point, many good Christian readers may have closed the book.

And that’s too bad. Because Nola’s story has much to teach us about ourselves.

You see, when we’re not vigilant–and sometimes even when we are–sin comes upon us like those dust storms. It seeps into every crack and crevice of our lives, no matter how hard we try to keep it out, to scrub it away. Only the Living Water, Jesus Christ, has the power to wash it away, quench our thirst and make us clean again.

That, I believe, is the point of the story. Nola grew up in a home without love, and went looking for love in all the wrong places, as the old song goes. To escape an unhappy home life, she made a hasty marriage. (The title hearkens to Jesus’s parable about the foolish man who built his house on sand,
“and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”) Now she’s restless, unhappy, and critical toward her husband, her two children, and the people of her town. When the handsome drifter–an old friend of her husband–comes to her home, her poor choices make everything infinitely worse. (In keeping with Christian publishing standards, we aren’t offered graphic details of what happens–needless to say, the picture’s clear enough.)

Ultimately, On Shifting Sand is a story of repentance, forgiveness, and redemption. You may have to slog through some dust and dirt to get there, but it’s worth it.

Disclosure: I’ve been given a review copy of this book by the publisher. This generosity, while appreciated, has not biased my review. I also post some of my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.


Sparkling Vintage Book Review: Surprised by Love by Julie Lessman

surprised by love cover Be honest now–who among us did not, at one time or another, dream of being Cinderella? I know I did–to suddenly be transformed from an awkward adolescent with quirky hair, bad skin, and a full metal jacket of braces, not to mention oddball interests like classical music and old books, into a smooth-haired beauty who was kind and gracious to boot, seemed like the ultimate transformation. All without any particular effort on my part, of course.

In Julie Lessman’s new novel, Surprised by Love (#3 in the Heart of San Francisco series), set in early-20th-century San Francisco, Megan McClare has always been a shy, awkward child, mocked by classmates, until she returns home from a year spent in Paris. Who is this beautiful butterfly who has shed her ugly cocoon? With her sights set on a professional career, Megan begins working at the  district attorney’s office with none other than Devin Caldwell, the meanest of the mean boys from her past–and the secret object of her affections. (*Sigh*–isn’t that always the way?) How is she supposed to work alongside him every day with all these conflicting feelings tumbling around within her?

As she’s done her whole life, Megan tries to lean on her dear friend Bram Hughes–but what’s this? Bram is no longer the good buddy he’s always been–now he’d like to be her beau. But–but–Oh, dear, what a pickle!

I have only a couple small quibbles with this book. One is the stereotypical emphasis on fixing physical flaws–I know that’s a central element of the plot, but some of the things Megan had “fixed”–her freckles for example–are not universal signs of ugliness. I, for one, find freckles absolutely charming. And how much better to be able to see, with the help of thick lenses, than to do without? Also, once in a while, the believability factor is stretched to its limit. A lot can happen in a year–but a complete transformation in which close friends and family claim to not recognize you? Seems a bit of a leap.

Nonetheless, fans of Julie Lessman’s highly entertaining brand of romantic inspirational fiction, as well as ugly-duckling transformation stories, will fall in love with Surprised by Love.It might help to read the first two books in the series (Love at Any Cost and Dare to Love Again) to get the lay of the land before reading this third book.

Disclosure: I’ve been given a review copy of this book by the publisher. This generosity, while appreciated, has not biased my review. I also post some of my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

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