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Start 2020 off right by reading a good book!

January 2020 New Releases

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


Contemporary Romance:

A Rancher to Trust by Laurel Blount — After learning his ex-wife isn’t so ex after all, rebel turned rancher Dan Whitlock is determined to prove he’s a changed man…but Bailey Quinn is just as set on finally ending their marriage. When tragedy makes Dan the guardian of little orphaned twins, he and Bailey are drawn back together. But can she forgive the past and open her heart to the family she’s always wanted? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired (Harlequin))

Star Rising by Janet W. Ferguson — Star Youngblood tries to protect her employer, Mrs. Priscilla Kelly, from the woman’s neglectful son, an aspiring flight instructor who has issues with religion, but finds her own heart is at the greatest risk. (Contemporary Romanc, Independently Published)

A Promise to Keep by Melony Teague — Savannah, a widowed research librarian, goes to her twenty year class reunion and gets reacquainted with Michael, a former troublemaker who is now a professional technical rescuer. Before the night is over, a pact between these two old friends will lead them on an adventure into uncharted emotional territory where Michael must confront his past regrets and find the courage to reveal the truth. But can Savannah fly from her sheltered nest and risk her heart on a real-life hero? (Contemporary Romance from Anaiah Press)


General Contemporary:

A Long Time Comin by Robin W. Pearson — To hear Beatrice Agnew tell it, she entered the world with her mouth tightly shut. Just because she finds out she’s dying doesn’t mean she can’t keep it that way. If any of her children have questions about their daddy and the choices she made after he abandoned them, they’d best take it up with Jesus. There’s no room in Granny B’s house for regrets or hand-holding. Or so she thinks. Her granddaughter, Evelyn Lester, shows up on Beatrice’s doorstep anyway, burdened with her own secret baggage. Determined to help her Granny B mend fences with her far-flung brood, Evelyn turns her grandmother’s heart and home inside out. Evelyn’s meddling uncovers a tucked-away box of old letters, forcing the two women to wrestle with their past and present pain as they confront the truth Beatrice has worked a lifetime to hide. (General Contemporary from Tyndale House)


Historical Romance:

Freedom in the Mountain Wind by Misty M. Beller — A young woman faces overwhelming odds to make her father’s dream come true before he dies of lung cancer, but paddling upriver through fierce rapids and fighting hungry grizzlies to follow the Lewis and Clark trail isn’t what terrifies her the most. Beaver Tail endured more than he can stand from the women in his Blackfoot camp, but the last disaster gave him the final shove he needed to join this band of brothers searching for one of their group who’s gone missing. The last thing he expected was to find a white woman and her sick father stranded at the base of a massive waterfall. His plan is to help them carry their oversize canoe and supplies, then leave them to their strange mission. Yet, the more he learns about the pair, the more he realizes his life is about to be derailed—again. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Uncharted Promises by Keely Brooke Keith — Sybil Roberts uses the warmth of delicious meals to lift the spirits of road-weary travelers at The Inn at Falls Creek. Her life at the inn would be perfect if she could just get her brothers and mother to move back home. And if she could see Isaac Owens again. He visited the inn once when he interviewed for the farm manager job, and she’s dreamed of his return to Falls Creek ever since. Isaac Owens knows how to run a farm. His family might not have faith in him, but if he succeeds at Falls Creek, he’ll prove them wrong. He arrives at the inn thinking the job is his, but the inn’s senile owner offered the position to another man too. Isaac must spend the winter competing if he wants to win the job… and Sybil’s heart. It will take more than warm meals on cold nights for Sybil and Isaac to find love while working at the isolated inn. (Historical Romance from Edenbrooke Press)

Forever Hidden by Kimberley Woodhouse, Tracie Peterson — Sybil Roberts uses the warmth of delicious meals to lift the spirits of road-weary travelers at The Inn at Falls Creek. Her life at the inn would be perfect if she could just get her brothers and mother to move back home. And if she could see Isaac Owens again. He visited the inn once when he interviewed for the farm manager job, and she’s dreamed of his return to Falls Creek ever since. Isaac Owens knows how to run a farm. His family might not have faith in him, but if he succeeds at Falls Creek, he’ll prove them wrong. He arrives at the inn thinking the job is his, but the inn’s senile owner offered the position to another man too. Isaac must spend the winter competing if he wants to win the job… and Sybil’s heart. It will take more than warm meals on cold nights for Sybil and Isaac to find love while working at the isolated inn. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

The Gray Chamber by Grace Hitchcock — On Blackwell Island, New York, a hospital was built to keep its patients from ever leaving. With her late father’s fortune under her uncle’s care until her twenty-fifth birthday in the year 1887, Edyth Foster does not feel pressured to marry or to bow to society’s demands. She freely indulges in eccentric hobbies like fencing and riding her velocipede in her cycling costume about the city for all to see. Finding a loophole in the will, though, her uncle whisks Edyth off to the women’s lunatic asylum just weeks before her birthday. Do any of Edyth’s friends care that she disappeared? At the asylum she meets another inmate, who upon discovering Edyth’s plight, confesses that she is Nellie Bly, an undercover journalist for The World. Will either woman find a way to leave the terrifying island and reclaim her true self? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)


Romantic Suspense:

Secret Mountain Hideout by Terri Reed — Staying hidden has kept her alive… But now she’s been found. A remote Colorado mountain town and a fake identity have been Ashley Willis’s safe haven since fleeing after she witnessed a murder—but now the killer has found her trail. Desperate and terrified, she’s prepared to run again…but Deputy Sheriff Chase Fredrick won’t let her. With the lawman by her side, can she face danger head-on…and live long enough to bring a murderer to justice? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Plus check out these recent additions to Fiction Finder published within the past month:

50-50 by Roger Bruner, Contemporary
Shattered Treasure by Cindy Patterson, Romantic Suspense
The Contessa Is Missing by Linda Siebold, Romantic Suspense
The Forever Sky by Janalyn Voigt, Western Romance
Northern Hearts by Laurie Wood, Romantic Suspense

Episode 25: Boxing Day


Join Jennifer as she talks about “olden days” Boxing Day and muses about New Years resolutions.

If you prefer to read rather than listen, scroll down to find a transcript of this episode.

Show notes:

Rock’Em, Soc ‘Em Robots are still around! Go figure.

Jennifer at The Daily Connoisseur shared an amusing-yet-horrifying story about the purported return of visible underwear.

Transcript of Episode 25: Boxing Day

Welcome to A Sparkling Vintage Life, where we discuss all things vintage and celebrate the grace and charm of an earlier era. It’s episode 25, and it’s December 26, 2019, as I record this. In some countries, mostly those with ties to the United Kingdom, it’s Boxing Day! My mother was Canadian, and she always declared how she enjoyed Boxing Day almost more than Christmas. The pressure was off, the feast was over, the presents unwrapped, but we still had plenty of delicious leftovers to eat and a schedule free of obligations so we could play with our toys and put the house back in order in a relaxed, peaceful way. We didn’t yet have to go back to work or school, so it was just a lazy day of rest and recovery. Which is mostly what today has been for me.

When I was very young I thought “Boxing Day” had something to do with the sport of boxing. In that era there was a popular children’s game called “Rock ‘em, sock ‘em robots” in which robot figurines would pummel each other in a boxing ring. I imagine this sort of thing has been deemed too violent for children nowadays. I can’t remember if my brothers owned one, but I certainly saw plenty of commercials for it on our old black-and-white rabbit-ear TV. Anyway, my mother had to correct my misconception and explain that, no, Boxing Day didn’t involve anyone hitting anyone else. On the contrary, the focus was on charity and giving to those less fortunate.

The term “Boxing” in this case refers to the literal boxes that were used to pack up the remains of the feast and other items to be given away. It was the custom for the poor to go around begging the leftovers of the Christmas feast. Some English churches handed out bread and cheese and ale. At least one church discontinued this practice when rioting broke out among the recipients.

Boxing Day was, and remains, a servants’ holiday, when they were given the day off after being run off their feet to serve the nobles’ their Christmas feast. Gifts and food were distributed to the servants, the peasants, and those who worked the land. Even when the gifts became money instead of objects, the term “Christmas box” remained in use.

In some countries Boxing Day was also when tradesmen like butchers and bakers made the rounds of their customers, collecting their annual Christmas box or tip. This was done into the twentieth century, although I understand it is no longer practiced. Not the showing up on people’s doorsteps, anyway.

December 26 has also been called St. Stephens Day, a tradition dating from the Dark Ages. I learned in my research that there were two St. Stephens. I knew of one–the Stephen of the Bible whose story is told in the book of Acts. Stoned to death for his steadfast faith, this Stephen was Christianity’s first recorded martyr. The second Stephen lived in the 800s and shared the gospel in Sweden. He, too, was martyred for his faith. Apparently this second Stephen loved horses, and so horse-racing became a tradition observed on Boxing Day in some parts of the world. In addition to horse racing, other popular Boxing Day activities are football (American soccer) and cricket–but not, as it were, the sport of boxing.

St. Stephens Day might ring a bell for those who remember the carol about Good King Wenceslaus, who looked out of his palace “on the feast of Stephen.” This song whose lyrics tell about a rich king helping the poor was written in 1853 and reflected the Victorian respect for almsgiving and the charitable focus of the day.

Coming up next week, of course, will be New Years’ Eve revelry and the New Years’ Day and the making of resolutions for 2020. I no longer make New Year’s resolutions. They never seemed to stick, anyway. These days I make “prayer intentions” for the new year–an idea I got from author Rachel Hauck. I pray about those things I’d like to see happen in 2020, the things I want to do and the person I want to become. By praying about these things instead of “resolving” them,  I acknowledge that I’m not in charge of my life. God is in charge. I don’t make things happen under my own power. I have no power. God has all the power, and I submit my will to his. That doesn’t mean I don’t set goals and align my efforts to make them happen. I do set goals, and maybe I’ll talk about that process in a future episode. But I also understand that only God sets the true course of my days. Only he knows how my day, my year, and my life will play out in the end.

How about you? Do you set goals for the new year? Are you happy, sad, or indifferent to see 2019 go and 2020 arrive?  Does your family observe Boxing Day?  Feel free to leave a comment at sparklingvintagelife.com/podcast under episode 25, or send an email to jenny@sparklingvintagelife.com  And I’ll be back in a moment with today’s grace note.

***

Today’s grace note is a short article about New Year’s resolutions written in 1920 by Barbara Ellison. Being as it was published in Inspiration, the magazine of the Women’s Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences, it’s no wonder that the resolutions have less to do with personal character and more to do with one’s wardrobe. I think you’ll get a kick out of her advice, much of which still applies today.

Buy wisely, and unless you have definite use for an article, do not buy it. Wait until your wardrobe is definitely assembled in your own mind and everything “fits in,” hat, shoes, gloves, purse, not to mention stockings and slips.

Be slim by being trim, be attractive by being immaculate. See that the seams of your stockings run straight and the heels of your shoes never run over. Keep your gloves clean. Never allow spots to mark your clothes nor perspiration to deface a gown. And never allow your shoulder straps to protrude. You can keep them out of sight by sewing one end of a ribbon or a piece of bias tape to the shoulder. Fasten it with a snap at the other end; then snap it around the straps of your undergarments.

One of the greatest virtues of the right clothes, rightly worn, is that they enable us to forget them and ourselves. When they are right enough for us to do this, we become our most likable and natural selves and, even if your features are not perfect nor perfectly assembled, we may someday hear of ourselves in one of those sibilant whispers that so audibly clothe a spoken confidence, “What a charming woman!”

Thanks for listening! Check back soon when I’ll share another aspect of A Sparkling Vintage Life.

 

Episode 24: A Sparkling Short Story: The Christmas Robe


As a special gift to listeners, Jennifer Leo reads aloud her acclaimed short story “The Christmas Robe.” Grab a warm beverage and your favorite blanket and prepare to be charmed by this bit of vintage Christmas cheer.

If you prefer to read rather than listen, scroll down to find a transcript of this episode.

Show notes to Episode 24: A Sparkling Short Story: The Christmas Robe

“The Christmas Robe” is excerpted from the book Songbird and Other Stories, available in e-book and softcover format, and also in a large print edition here.

Other books by Jennifer Lamont Leo:

You’re the Cream in My Coffee

Ain’t Misbehavin’

The Highlanders

Transcript of Episode 24: Stories of the Season: The Christmas Robe

Welcome to A Sparkling Vintage Life, where we discuss all things vintage and celebrate the grace and charm of an earlier era. It’s December 6, 2019, as I record this, and many people are gearing up for the Christmas season. In the spirit of the season, today, I’m offering you a little gift. It’s an audio recording of a story I wrote a few years ago called “The Christmas Robe.”

Set in 1928, “The Christmas Robe” is a story about a harried clerk who labors in the Ladies Nightwear section of a major Chicago department store –Marshall Field & Co., for you longtime Chicagoans–and a decision she makes that affects her whole outlook on the season. Those of you who’ve read my novel You’re the Cream in My Coffee will recognize the clerk as the delightfully daffy Marjorie Corrigan!

“The Christmas Robe” is a light, quick read. I’m inviting you to take a few minutes out of your hectic schedule to maybe grab a cup of tea or cocoa, put your feet up, and just listen.

[Click here for the full text of “The Christmas Robe”]

I hope that story warmed your heart.

And that’s our show for today. If you have a heart that sometimes yearns for the misty memories of yesteryear, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter at sparklingvintagelife.com. Leave a review on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. And tune in again next time when I’ll be back to discuss another aspect of A Sparkling Vintage Life.

 

Cozy Fireside Reads for December

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


Contemporary Romance:

Stranded for the Holidays by Lisa Carter — Running away led her right where she belonged. A new mom for Christmas? She’s everything they’ve wished for. Runaway bride AnnaBeth Cummings needs shelter for the holidays when a blizzard leaves her stranded, and rancher Jonas Stone’s happy to help. But his son’s been wishing for a mommy for Christmas, and town matchmakers are convinced Annabeth and Jonas are perfect for each other. As the storm clears, city girl AnnaBeth will have to decide: does her heart now belong in the country? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

The Dating Charade by Melissa Ferguson — After a knockout first date where Cassie Everson and Jett Bentley claim to not want kids, both come home to find three children dropped in their laps. . . each. While struggling to keep their heads above the parental waters, and without wanting to break up their relationship, they decide to do the mature thing: hide the kids from each other while sorting it all out. What could go wrong? (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

Home for Christmas by Candee Fick — After an embarrassing failure, a prodigal retreats to a secluded cabin in backwoods Missouri where he encounters an intriguing young woman and an old guitar. When the message in the music touches his heart, will he make it home in time for Christmas? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Getting Out of the Comfort Zone: Ayanna by Barbara James — While interning as a hospital chaplain, a young military officer falls for an EMT who is an antiwar activist. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)


Children’s:

Battle In The Valley by Susanne Blumer — The church bell tower transports Chip, Caroline and Billy back thousands of years to an ancient battlefield. There they meet a young shepherd destined to be king and a giant warrior bent on his destruction. Will the children survive the upcoming fight and make it back to Palmetto Island in one piece? (Middle-grade from Sutton Avenue Press)


Historical:

Hope Unchained by Carol Ashby — When a former legionary and a gladiator are hired to escort a young woman on her quest to rescue her brother and sister from slavery, more chains are broken by forgiveness and love than any of them thought possible. (Historical from Cerrillo Press)


Historical Romance:

The Major’s Daughter by Regina Jennings — In a western land run, an adventurous socialite stakes a claim on an orphaned outlaw’s chosen land, so he decides to stake a claim on her heart. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

Sew In Love by Debby Lee, Jacquolyn McMurray, Darlene Panzera, and Kimberley Woodhouse — When four women put needle and thread to fabric, will their sewing lead to love? In Hearts Sewn with Love, during the California gold rush, a beautiful seamstress finds her heart torn between the men who want to marry her and the one fortune hunter who won’t. In Woven Hearts, a shirtwaist factory fire survivor struggles to provide for her family despite the disastrous misguided intentions of the handsome union organizer who tries to help. In A Language of Love, a milliner with thick Irish accent and a renowned baseball player with speech impediment meet at the office of a language teacher. But the issues with their backgrounds that first brought them together will also drive them apart. In Tailored Sweethearts, a parachute seamstress struggles with her faith in desperate circumstances. A fighter pilot teaches her to hope in her darkest hours. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Rebel Bride by Shannon McNear — During the clash between Union and Confederacy, quiet Tennessean Pearl MacFarlane is compelled to nurse both Rebel and Yankee wounded who seek refuge at her family’s farm. She is determined to remain unmoved by the Yankee cause—until she faces the silent struggle of Union soldier Joshua Wheeler, a recent amputee. The MacFarlane family fits no stereotype Joshua believed in; still he is desperate to regain his footing—as a soldier, as a man, as a Christian—in the aftermath of his debilitating injury. He will use his time behind enemy lines to gather useful intelligence for the Union—if the courageous Rebel woman will stay out of the line of danger. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)


Romantic Suspense:

Silent Night Suspect by Sharee Stover — Suspected of a crime she knows she didn’t commit… All she wants for Christmas is to remember. Blood on her blouse. A gun in her hand. A cartel leader’s dead body in front of her. Widow Asia Stratton can’t remember what happened—just that she’s been framed. The only way to prove her innocence is to work with her ex-sweetheart, Nebraska state trooper Slade Jackson. But can they clear her name before this Christmas turns even deadlier? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])


Speculative:

Brand of Light by Ronie Kendig — After a catastrophic explosion, Kersei Dragoumis awakens in a derelict shuttle, alone, injured, and ignorant of the forbidden technology that has swept her into a nightmare. The brand she’s borne since childhood burns mysteriously, but the pain is nothing to that when she learns her family is dead and she is accused of their murders. Across the quadrants, Marco Dusan responds to the call of a holy order-not to join them, but to seek a bounty. Gifted-or cursed-with abilities that mark him a Kynigos, a tracker sworn to bring interplanetary fugitives to justice, Marco discovers this particular bounty has nothing to do with justice and everything to do with prophecy. One that involves the hunter as much as the hunted. (Speculative from Enclave Publishing)


Thriller/Suspense:

Laynie Portland, Renegade Spy by Vikki Kestell — Laynie must fight to earn her place on the task force—even as unfolding events expose a looming danger. Wolfe’s task force has a leak . . . one that threatens them all. (Suspense, Independently Published)

 

Plus check out these recent additions to Fiction Finder published within the past month:

Promise for Tomorrow by Michelle De Bruin, Historical Romance
Call to Love by Mary A. Felkins, Contemporary Romance
Joy’s Song by Ruth Kyser, Contemporary Romance
Hope Between Us by Christy LaShea, Contemporary Romance
The Trouble in Willow Falls by Pat Nichols, Contemporary
Off the Ground by Catherine Richmond, Historical Romance
Crinoline Cowboys by Patty Smith Hall, Cynthia Hickey, Marilyn Turk, Kathleen Y’Barbo, Historical Romance
A High-Country Christmas by Davalynn Spencer, Historical Romance
The Christmas Gazebo by Marilyn Turk, Lenora Worth, Historical Romance

Episode 23: 9 Ways to Ease the Holiday Blues

Photo source: 123rf.com. Photographer: Ivanna Sukhorebra


Jennifer speaks from the heart to those spending the holidays alone, or experiencing the “holiday blues” for whatever reason. If you’re feeling alone–well, you’re not alone in feeling that way! Here are some practical ways to keep the holiday season from bringing you down.

If you prefer to read rather than listen, scroll down to find a transcript of this episode.

Links:

The Highlanders

The “Big Snow” article in the Winter 2020 edition of Sandpoint is not available online as a single article, but can be read in the online flip-through edition of the magazine here. It’s on page 39.

Transcript of Episode 23: 9 Ways to Ease the Holiday Blues

Welcome to A Sparkling Vintage Life, where we discuss all things vintage and celebrate the grace and charm of an earlier era. It’s November 29, 2019, as I record this, and it’s the day after Thanksgiving here in the United States. It’s also Black Friday, when shoppers go crazy. But not me…I’d rather stay in my warm, cozy house and talk to you!

There’s not much to report this week in writing news, just a reminder that The Highlanders novella collection is now available in both e-book and softcover versions. I’ll put a link in the show notes. I also have an article in the current issue of Sandpoint magazine, all about the Big Snow of 1969. Writing that article got me in a rather snowy mood, but there’s no snow on the ground here on this almost-Thanksgiving Day, although it’s bitter cold and windy.

At this time of year we’re bombarded over and over with the message that holidays are meant for families, the bigger the family the better, and if you’re not part of a family, or if your family is far away, the holidays aren’t really meant for you.

This, of course, is bunkum, to use a vintage term that means exactly what it sound like. Single people, widowed people, couples without children, all of us deserve to have a good holiday, and the answer isn’t automatically to attach us to a family so that we feel less weird and out of step. I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I’ve come up with nine ways to enjoy the holidays when you’re on your own, for whatever reason.

The first thing to address is your mindset. You are not the only one who’s having a solo holiday, although it can certainly feel like that sometimes. You are not “less than” or inadequate or whatever other lie you’re telling yourself. You need not have a miserable holiday. You may prefer to be with your family, but circumstances are preventing a visit this year. On the other hand, you may NOT prefer to be with your family, but have chosen to go solo or get together with friends who are not blood relations. None of this makes you strange, weird, or worthy of pity.

  1. A corollary to shifting your mindset is to watch what media you’re consuming and temper it if necessary. If you let the messages of too many Hallmark movies or too many sweet stories or songs sink in, to tell you that family is everything, that only relationships by blood or marriage count as worthwhile relationships, or that you are some kind of a loser if you’re alone on a holiday, you’ll be sunk before you start. Counteract some of those holiday specials with mysteries, thrillers, or whatever type of entertainment normally floats your boat.
  2. If you’re spending the holiday alone because you’ve lost someone close to you, give yourself time and space to grieve. Leaf through old photos. Remember the good times, the funny times, the poignant times. Let yourself have a good cry. One advantage to having a solo holiday is you don’t have to paste on a smile and a happy demeanor when you don’t feel like it. Don’t try to force yourself to have a jolly good time when you’re not feeling it. On the other hand, if you’re not feeling weepy or blue, don’t force that either.
  3. Do something for somebody else. It’s kind of a cliché, but the quickest way I’ve found to stop feeling sorry for myself is to do something kind for somebody else. When we moved to a new community and didn’t know anybody, my husband and I volunteered at a community Christmas dinner, and we did that for several years. It felt good to focus on making somebody else’s holiday special, instead of worrying about our own. Those were some of the best holidays I’ve enjoyed. You can minister in other ways, too. I used to recommend delivering cookies to places like police and fire stations where people had to work on the holiday. Sadly I no longer recommend doing this, because in this day and age officers are unlikely to eat food delivered by strangers for their own safety. But you could still deliver cards or other expressions of thanks to the people who work hard on the holidays so we can celebrate. You could also visit shut-ins or people who are too sick or too elderly to go out in cold weather, but might appreciate some cheering up. Call first to make sure a visit would be welcome and convenient for the person.
  4. Keep up some traditions. If you love certain aspects of the holidays, don’t feel you have to drop them just because you’re solo this year. If you love baking and decorating cookies, pull out the flour, sugar, and butter. My mom and I loved to bake cookies together at Christmas. Now that she’s gone, I still bake cookies using her cookie cutters, and I love reliving the memories. But I give most of them away so I don’t overdose on sugar. Maybe you love listening to certain music at the holidays, or watching certain movies, you can do so over and over if you want, without anyone plugging their ears and running out of the room at the opening notes of Buffalo Gals.
  5. Drop some traditions. Another joy of solo holidays is that no one will pressure you to keep up traditions that have grown stale or no longer have the meaning they once did. If you’d rather chew tinfoil than watch George Bailey find Zuzu’s petals one more time, you get to skip the annual showing of It’s a Wonderful Life. If making Grandma’s mince pie is no longer your thing, the Holiday Police aren’t going to show up at your door and arrest you. It’s okay. Let it go.

 

  1. Don’t over-idealize other people’s holidays, or your own past holidays. It’s easy to romanticize holidays of the past, remembering the good parts and forgetting the arguments or the boredom. All over the country, for every family that is truly living out the ideal Norman Rockwell thanksgiving, there’s probably at least one other family where that ideal is falling short. Remember that what you see on Instagram or Facebook is other people’s highlight reels, their best moments. Don’t make the mistake of thinking their whole life is like that. They just may have managed to snap a photo at a moment when everyone was smiling between arguments.
  2. If you’re on your own this holiday, take advantage of it. Set your own schedule. Sleep as much as you want. Eat when you want. Go out if you want, or stay home. Catch up on your reading, or go see a movie. You’re in charge of your domain.
  3. And finally–and this should probably be number one– Remember the purpose of the day is to give thanks to God for all of the many blessings He’s given us. If all you do today is ponder the good things in your life instead of your disappointments and discouragements, you are bound to feel better. If you’re a believer, you’re never alone, because He’s there with you. And with a lack of demands for your time and attention, you can dive deep into conversations with Him,

So that’s it–nine ways to make the most of a holiday spent solo. Maybe you can arrange things so that next year you won’t be on your own. On the other hand, maybe you’ll have such a good holiday on your own that you won’t want next year to be different. Godspeed.

Today’s grace note is a short bit of inspiration written during World War II by Margery Wilson. It’s a postscript to her book The Woman You Want to Be, titled “Adjusting Yourself to Today.” In it she encourages readers to have a positive attitude during some of the privations and straitened circumstances of the war years. I think much of her advice can be applied by those going through a season of the holiday blues as well.

Adjusting Yourself to Today
by Margery Wilson

But how to live beautifully today–on less than usual? Faced with the shortages, priorities and allotments of consumer goods, we must make life and happiness for ourselves. No longer is it to be delivered on our doorstep wrapped in cellophane.

We have more to do–and less on which to do it. Yet down in our hearts we know that we have the skill, the courage, the ingenuity, the imagination and the all-important good taste to make a very fair success of living with the materials at hand.

Take the subject of pleasure. It is entirely in what you make of it. For instance, haven’t you often heard it said that if people work as hard for a living as they do at play that they would think themselves dreadfully persecuted? If you can’t play golf, for instance [maybe because of high greens fees or overall lack of resources during the war], you still have your legs. And it is sheer willful moaning that will keep you from taking the long walks that won’t cost a penny, but will help to keep your figure in trim and your nerves and your liver in order.

Consider all your inconveniences temporary–just for the duration of the war [or the holiday season]. Skip over them as you mentally would some obstacle that is going to be removed shortly. And keep your mind’s eye on time to come.

We will be using substitutes for many erstwhile luxuries before very long. Some of us will test our skill in finding something homemade just as good. It’s surprising how often we find the substitute no sacrifice at all.

It comes as a surprise to many of us that one game is about as engrossing as another. It is the sense of contest, of pitting luck and skill against that of the others that makes a game fun. So parlor croquet, table-tennis, charades, twenty questions, rhyming contests, pitching horseshoes and potato races can be made just as amusing for sophisticates as many more expensive and less hilarious games.

Hospitality, good talk and gaiety are the stuff of social happiness. When you are really having a good time, it is not because Mrs. Hostess is laden with her famous gems, or because you are eating from priceless heirloom Venetian glass. You are happy because someone has managed to flash a light of warmth, appreciation, challenge or compliment your way. One of the most telling and touching scenes for me in Gone with the Wind was the picture of Melanie entertaining with gracious charm after the war in her bare little house with broken teacups without saucers–and no one but the feverishly grasping Scarlett noticed the lack.

We may or may not be reduced to similar straits, but even if we aren’t, we shall do as Melanie did–with seeming detachment from all materialism–rising graciously above anything, spiritually whole, and entirely ourselves.

It has never been considered the essence of elegance anyway to depend on luxurious appointments for hospitality. It’s nice to have them–but a charming host or hostess can offer the merest cracker with a natural, gracious and unaffected warmth, with all the true elegance necessary for anybody’s entertainment I have noticed that people who had to depend upon fancy trappings for their fun seldom keep their friends or win secure positions.

Singing is the soul’s expression. It cleans out the corners of the heart and doesn’t let stale emotions pile up. If you can’t sing out loud for fear of disturbing someone or being conspicuous, then sing in your mind, thinking the actual words and tune. Do so going down the street and see what it does to your posture, your walk, your spirits. Sing new songs, old songs, hymns, national anthems, football songs, arias, swing, anything–but sing! Get the neighbors in and sing. Set aside a regular evening for a songfest. A singing nation has heart!

Above all, do not drop out of normal social activities. Be determinedly hospitable. Get out the corn-popper. Have play readings–each of the neighbors reading a part. Reading aloud is being rediscovered today. Alexander Woollcott once said that almost every man has a poem in his vest pocket. And choose your own reading matter carefully. It can be an escape as well as entertainment and nourishment for the mind and soul.

An air-raid warden in London wrote that she reads mystery stories to take her mind entirely from the tragedies that occurred last night and those that may happen tonight. Another woman says that poetry helps her keep closer touch with sane beauty in the harsh duties that tire the body and weary the spirit. Still another devotes herself to historical novels packed with adventure.

The interesting thought was brought out that these tired workers hardly hear the booming of the great guns–one of them even referred to it as a “comfortingly loud barrage” that they sleep through pandemonium and hear only the tinkle of the telephone bell that calls them to duty. Isn’t this further evidence that we can train our sensibilities to register whatever we wish to register and only that?

Consider at this moment you register only the impressions you wish to recognize. It is true.

Consider that when the war is over you can have from all your experiences whatever you choose to bring with you from them. So choose now whether you are going to be embittered, drained, pessimistic and tired–or whether you are going to be disciplined, healthier, better adjusted to reality, more inspired and exalted, and full of plans for the future.

The courage and indomitable spirit of our men and women are going to win this war–and are going to leap into the after-task of making this a better world in which to live. not the least important of your contributions will be bringing to it your full measure of grace, beauty and charm.

(excerpted from “Adjusting Yourself to Today,” the postscript to the wartime edition of The Woman You Want to Be by Margery Wilson, copyright 1942 by Margery Wilson.)

 

And that’s our show for today. If you have a heart that sometimes yearns for the misty memories of yesteryear, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter at sparklingvintagelife.com. Leave a review on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. And tune in again next time when I’ll be back to discuss another aspect of A Sparkling Vintage Life.

It’s giveaway time! Celebrate Scotland with this sparkling Celtic cross!

Edited on Dec. 2 to add: WE HAVE A WINNER! Patricia Wilson’s name was selected at random to win the cross necklace. Congratulations, Patricia! Check your in-box for an e-mail from me.

Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to comment. Your interest means the world to me! There will be more giveaways coming up in 2020, so stay tuned! If you’re not yet subscribed to my newsletter, that’s the best way to stay informed of new posts, giveaways, and book news. Just click on the box to the right to subscribe.

Hello, Sparklers! To celebrate the release of our new historical romance collection, The Highlanders, I’m giving away this stunning Celtic cross necklace from 1928 Jewelry to one cherished reader.

Here’s how 1928’s catalog describes this gorgeous piece:

A cross created using four intertwined Celtic trinity knots (triquetra) is called a Carolingian Cross necklace. Used here, the pendant is looped in the classic lovely lines known to adorn the famous Book of Kells. Suspended from a rope style chain, this is a gorgeous way to represent your Faith.

  • Made in USA
  • Length: 16″ adjustable

It’s part of 1928’s Symbols of Faith Collection. “Symbols Of Faith is an inspirational line of faith oriented jewelry and gifts. The collection is proudly designed and made in the U.S.A. This inspirational collection offers pieces that are sure to uplift your spirit.”

If you’d like an opportunity to win this Celtic cross necklace, simply leave a comment below answering this question: What’s your favorite thing about Scottish culture? The tartans? The kilts? The bagpipes? The songs? Ewan McGregor? Haggis? 🙂

Simply name something you like (or think you would like) about Scottish culture and I’ll put your name in a drawing for the necklace. I’ll do the drawing in early December, in plenty of time for you to give it to someone as a Christmas gift, if you want to. Or just let it adorn your own swanlike neck as you cuddle up with the romantic stories in The Highlanders.

https://www.amazon.com/Highlanders-Smitten-Historical-Romance-Collection-ebook/dp/B07XPCW8H9

A Sparkling Vintage Interview with historical fiction author Naomi Musch!

Author Naomi Musch

Today I have the pleasure of visiting with Naomi Musch, author of “A Tender Siege,” one of four novellas in The Highlanders collection which releases this week!

Set during Pontiac’s War in August 1763, “A Tender Siege” tells the story of a Scotsman fighting in colonial Pennsylvania.

“I beg Ye to take me.” Wounded in battle in the American wilderness, Lachlan McRea of His Majesty’s 42nd Highlanders pleads with God, yearning to be reunited with his lost wife and child. As death hovers hear, he is discovered by Wenonah, a native widow doing all she can to survive alone while avoiding the attentions of a dangerous Shawnee warrior. In aiding one another, their perils increase. If Lachlan can let go of the woman he once loved, he might find healing for both body and soul.

Welcome, Naomi!

Jennifer Lamont Leo: First the basics. Where are you from, who’s in your family, and all that good stuff?

Naomi Musch: Hi, everyone. I’m a wife to Jeff (almost 39 years), mom of five, grandma of fourteen, and farm girl from northern Wisconsin, very near Lake Superior.

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

NM: It’s almost embarrassing to say how long ago I started writing, because I was 10 when I decided that authorship was for me. I didn’t get my first novel published until I was in my 40s. I finally published when the e-book world opened and an independent press took a chance on me (for which I am ever grateful). I did spend a lot of time writing during those earlier years though. I published articles, newsletters, blogs, and more while my husband and I homeschooled our kids (which, in itself, took almost 30 years with their age spread). My first novel, The Green Veil, was published in 2010. I hope to re-release it along with its full 3-book series again next year.

JLL: What inspired you to write “A Tender Siege”?

NM: After my novel Mist O’er the Voyageur released last year, and I started working on a possible sequel, I fell into some really interesting historical tidbits about Pontiac’s War (on the tail of the French and Indian Wars). It got me thinking of some possibilities about a story set during that time. When I was approached about the possibility of joining three other authors in a compilation of Highlander novellas, I was told I could pick any historical era and locale that worked. Right then I knew exactly what I wanted to write about.

JLL: Why did you choose to set your story in the 1763?

NM: Pontiac’s War covered a very brief period of time, from 1763 to 1766, with the heaviest of the action taking place in the first year. Once I knew I wanted to write about the Battle so I didn’t pick the time period as much as the time period was a given, plus that’s when the Battle of Bushy Run took place.

JLL: Tell us about your research process for “A Tender Siege”.

Historical fiction writers loooove research, but it’s easy for us to run too far down bunny trails. Once I picked Pontiac’s War as my period of interest, I knew I had to select a very specific part of it for the sake of the length a novella covers. Truthfully, I usually write full-length novels, and I always find novellas a particular challenge. But I do like a challenge.

I was really drawn to an incident that happened farther north in the war, but no Highlanders fought in that battle, from what I could discover. So I had to accept that there must be a different setting. You see, I was also researching the various Highland regiments that were involved in the wars here on the American continent. The 42nd famed “Black Watch” really appealed to me (though they hadn’t received that moniker yet). Nevertheless, the 42nd were heavily involved in the Battle of Bushy Run, so that battle became my way into the story. After determining my hero would be from that regiment, I then had to learn more about his backstory, and what brought him from Scotland to fighting in the Pennsylvania wilderness. A person can get lost for weeks looking at that kind of history!

JLL: Does the story reflect some aspect of your own life and/or faith journey?

NM: I think the stories I write always reflect my faith journey in some way. Not because of experience, but more because of theme. I haven’t experienced anything similar to what my hero or heroine experience physically in “A Tender Siege,” but I have experienced the deep need to trust God with the future, despite how I feel about it, so in that way I think it resonates with me as well as others.

JLL: Are there any particular challenges you faced while writing this story?

NM: Hm…not sure my memory is good enough to recall. I think for me, time is usually the biggest factor. Writing under a deadline, which I was, kept me on task. But I usually have multiple irons in the fire—the main one being family needs. Did I say I had 14 grandchildren? ? We’re a very groupie bunch.

JLL: How do you stay spiritually grounded as you write?

NM: When I’m writing a book, I’m on high alert to themes the Lord might be pointing out to me. Sometimes he does that directly through my characters, sometimes through a sermon at church or on the radio, and sometimes through my life’s own uncertainties.

Also, the Lord has taught me that what I do is not about me getting published and selling books, even though I have the obligation to market my material if it does get published. He’s taught me that often its about teaching me something. When it comes to me publishing, I know now that all I need to do is my best, and that the outcome is up to Him. That’s the spiritual battle, because sometimes I forget and stress. I’m getting better though at really letting the projects go.

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

NM: Oh my! I’m a book stacker! (Thank goodness for e-readers!) For fiction, I’m currently reading Danielle Thorne’s The Privateer of San Madrid. I’ve been acquainted with Danielle in the book world for some years, but this is my first time reading a book by her. She’s good! Her writing is very in-depth and eloquent. Her characters very defined and unique.

I’m also going back and forth between two non-fiction works: Discipleship Counseling by Dr. Neil T. Anderson and Extreme Grandparenting by Dr. Tim & Darcy Kimmel. There are a few different writing craft books I’m meandering through. I tend to hop around in those, from plotting to marketing to grammar.   

JLL: What’s on your music playlist?

NM: I don’t really have one. On any given day I might want to hear Mercy Me singing “Happy Dance” or the full soundtrack of Last of the Mohicans. However, when I needed some mood music during the early writing stages of A Tender Siege I listened to Scocha – Scots Wha Hae and The Lonely Grenadier quite a few times. (Thanks, Youtube.)

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

Podcasts: Novel Marketing; TV series- I’m currently hooked on Heartland; My favorite movies are mostly historical: Last of the Mohicans, The Count of Monte Cristo, Far and Away, and some are sweet chick flicks: Return to Me; Always. Then there are the real classics (i.e. anything with James Stewart, Gregory Peck, or Cary Grant in it.)

JLL: Interesting about Cary Grant! My husband and I just watched Notorious last night. What do you do for fun?

NM: I love to go camping. We used to rough it when the kids were growing up. Now we have a vintage camper that we repainted this fall so it looks like a Dreamsicle (orange and cream). I also adore spending time with my grandkids and teaching them things around the farm, from gardening to woods lore. Speaking of which…we used to raise beef and goats and pigs—the usual farm critters—but now my sons have taken over and turned the property into a whitetail deer farm and hunting preserve. Seeing little fawns running around every spring? Now that’s fun!

JLL: What’s the next project coming up from Naomi Musch?

NM: My agent is shopping around three possibilities: an historical romance novella set in northern Wisconsin featuring a blacksmith hero and a newly arrived Norwegian immigrant girl, another historical romance novella featuring a lumberjack—but I don’t  I’ll tell much about that one yet, also set in Wisconsin. Finally, I’m working to finish a full-length novel called Letters From the Red Arrow, a WWI romance between a non-Native teacher working in a Native American boarding school and a Native widower gone to war, who leaves his daughter behind at the school. There are perils on both fronts.

 In the meantime, I’m going to turn my attention to re-issuing my out-of-print Empire in Pine series starting with The Green Veil that I mentioned earlier. I’m excited to look at those books again after a decade.

Here’s something funny. Tonight, as I was writing my answers to this interview, a lady called me and asked me if I still had copies of books one and two to that series, because her sister had just finished book one and she needed them. Good thing I still have some!

JLL: Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers that I haven’t asked?

NM: Yes! I would like to just say how much I appreciate every reader. These days the world is swamped with books. Anyone can pick up a book and put it down again ten minutes later to move onto something else. Every time a reader chooses to read one of my books, cover to cover, they’re giving me their most valuable commodity—their time. I wish every reader knew how much that means to me. <3

JLL: Where can we find you on social media?

NM: I love connecting! And I’m happy to meet with or speak to your group too. Give me a wave at:

Website: NaomiMusch.com

Amazon Author Page: Naomi Musch

FB: Naomi Musch – Author
Bookbub: Naomi Musch

Goodreads: Naomi Dawn Musch
Twitter: @NMusch
Instagram: NaomiMusch
Pinterest: Naomi Musch

Monthly Newsletter: News of the Northwoods

That’s it. Thanks, Naomi!

Naomi Musch is an award-winning author who crafts her stories from a deer farm in the pristine north woods of Wisconsin, where she and her husband Jeff live as epically as God allows near the families of their five adult children. She enjoys roaming around on the farm, snacking out of the garden, relaxing in her vintage camper, and loving on her passel of grandchildren. Naomi is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, the Wisconsin Writers’ Association, and the Lake Superior Writers. Though she has written in a variety of venues, her great love is historical fiction. She would love to connect with readers around the web at the sites listed above.

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Jennifer Lamont Leo