As an author, I have lots of goals. Landing on a bestseller list is not one of them. Here’s why.
Occasionally readers ask where I get my story ideas. One rich lode of ideas is studying real-life history, which I do often, both on my own and as a volunteer at a local history museum. Insatiably curious, I love digging into the past of places I’ve lived–it helps me feel more rooted and at home there. It’s a lot like snooping, but if you’re snooping through historical documents, you get to call it research. And the real-life past is an absolute treasure trove of future story ideas for a historical fiction author.
My first two books grew out of my interested in the Chicago area, where I grew up. A new story that’s coming out next fall moves the action to the dense fir forests of northern Idaho. I’m also mulling a story around the Armistice of 1918. I collect these ideas on scraps of paper in a folder, and now and then I sift through the folder for inspiration. Not every chance idea makes it into a future story, of course, but as Grandma used to say, it’s all grist for the mill. In the meantime, I’ve learned something new, and am always the richer for it.
If you’re interested in early-20th-century history, The Winter 2019 issue of SANDPOINT magazine contains three of my articles about my current home in northern Idaho. One’s about the Armistice, the second skims over key events that shaped the region, and the third’s about Sears mail-order houses, a big deal in the early 20th century. (Maybe you or someone you know lives in one!)
You, too, might be surprised and delighted at what you can turn up by studying the history of your town or region. Start with the local library or historical society, and see where the path may lead.
If you’re alone this holiday season, by choice or by circumstance, first of all, know that you are not an oddball. There is nothing wrong with you. While social expectations and Hallmark commercials drive home images of large, loving families enjoying a giant hugfest, like so many other things, the reality rarely lives up to the hype. Managing the wishes and expectations of extended family cal be a challenge. Even when it’s worth every effort, and we’re indeed blessed with those heart-tugging “moments” the media are always telling us to cherish, the sensation is fleeting. This is not to disparage large, loving families … by all means, if you’re part of one enjoy it to the fullest. But if you’re not, you needn’t despair. Your holidays may look different from the so-called norm, but they don’t need to be any less satisfying.
Whether or not you enjoy your solo holiday depends so much on your attitude. If you spend the day feeling sorry for yourself or telling yourself you’re somehow “less than” your neighbor who has twenty places set at her dining-room table, you are sure to feel miserable. On the other hand, if you embrace the blessings your quiet and serene holiday offers, Thanksgiving can be one of the richest and most satisfying days of the year.
I’ve been blessed in that I’ve always, as my grandmother used to put it, enjoyed my own company. That’s just my personality. The thought of curling up by the fire with a good book is my idea of bliss. I realize it’s not for everyone. But think of things you do enjoy: long hikes in nature, hot baths, a chance to catch up on your favorite Netflix series or BBC costume dramas Do these activities have to involve other people to be “worth the trouble”? Not if you understand that you’re worth the trouble.
Here are a few random ways to enjoy your solo holiday, in no particular order:
*Remember what the holiday is all about: Thankfulness. Write out a list of your blessings from the mundane to the sublime, and spend time thanking God for each one. Appreciate a distraction-free stretch of time to bask in prayer and soak up the Word, free from the pressures of ordinary days.
*Enjoy the luxury of time and space. Realize that some harassed people would give anything to spend the day quietly, but family expectations won’t permit it, or someone’s feelings would get hurt if they didn’t participate. If that’s not your situation, rejoice. Stock up on some good books (here are a few suggestions!) and movies and allow yourself sink into another world of your choosing.
*Bring in your very favorite foods and cook a lovely meal for yourself. Not fond of the traditional turkey dinner? You’re freed from anyone else’s expectations –cook up a steak if you want, or spaghetti, or pizza, and serve it on your best dishes. It’s your holiday as much as anyone else’s–feast the way you want (or not at all, if you don’t feel like it–but only if you don’t feel like it, not because you don’t feel worthy of it…because you are).
*Get up and get moving. Take that long walk in the woods (properly dressed so you some hunter doesn’t mistake you for a deer!). Getting some sunshine, fresh air, and exercise will lift your spirits. If the weather’s lousy, put on your favorite tunes and dance around the living room, with nobody there to criticize or complain.
*Reach out. To be sure, connect with far-flung family and friends by phone or Skype or social media. But if they’re all together somewhere and that makes you feel even more isolated, keep the conversation cheerful and brief. If you know someone else who’s also on their own, team up and share a meal. Or help serve at a community dinner. Or take time to visit a nursing home or retirement facility, where someone might appreciate seeing a friendly face.
I guess my best advice would be this: Don’t compare your holiday–or your life, for that matter– to someone else’s. Don’t automatically assume that someone else’s plans are superior to your own, or that you’re somehow inferior for spending a holiday by yourself. Every person’s life is a blend of good and bad, choices we’re proud of and those we regret, blessings God had bestowed and those he’s withheld. Embrace this season of your life. If you don’t care for it it, think about what you can do between now and then to make next year different. But don’t assume the grass is greener over there. With time, attention, and care you might find your own pasture is as green and soft as you could hope it would be.
Happy Thanksgiving to all my dear Sparklers! I’m very thankful for YOU!
October 2018 New Releases
More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.
A Christmas to Remember by Julie Arduini, Valerie Comer, Janet W. Ferguson, Kimberly Rose Johnson, Deb Kastner, Elizabeth Maddrey, Lindi Peterson, and Ginger Solomon — Eight authors from the popular blog Inspy Romance each share a Christmas-themed novella to put you in the mood for the season. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)
Their Family Legacy by Lorraine Beatty — Annie’s inheritance will provide a home for her twins and all she had to do is keep a man paying for his mistake forever. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
The Return by Marianne Evans — A prodigal who never wanted to return home must repair his family farm and rush back to the big city before an old love convinces him to stay. (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])
A Harvest of Blessings by June Foster — When Nadia accidentally sits on a stranger’s lap in the graveyard where her late husband is buried, she’s horrified to learn the good-looking guy with salt and pepper hair is her new boss. Jared is intrigued by this beautiful woman who puts God first in her life, but his daughter isn’t ready for him to move on after his wife’s death. As Nadia and Jared try to cultivate a relationship, will they reap a Harvest of Blessings, or a season of drought? (Contemporary Romance from Forget Me Not Romance [Winged Publication])
A Sparkle of Silver by Liz Johnson — Ninety years ago, Millie Sullivan’s great-grandmother was a guest at banker Howard Dawkins’ palatial estate on the shore of St. Simons Island, Georgia. Now, Millie plays a 1920s-era guest during tours of the same manor. But when her grandmother suggests that there is a lost diary containing the location of a hidden treasure on the estate, along with the true identity of Millie’s great-grandfather, Millie sets out to find the truth of her heritage–and the fortune that might be hers. When security guard Ben Thornton discovers her snooping in the estate’s private library, he threatens to have her fired. But her story seems almost too ludicrous to be fiction, and her offer to split the treasure is too tempting to pass up . . . (Contemporary Romance from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)
Reason to Breathe by Deborah Raney — At twenty-nine, Phylicia Chandler put her life on hold to care for her dying mother with her sisters, Joanna and Britt. Now Mom is gone and their father has run off with a woman young enough to be their sister. Phylicia feels stuck–until her father’s protégé, Quinn Mitchell, presents her and her two sisters with an intriguing business opportunity to purchase a trio of cottages just outside of Langhorne, Missouri. But Phylicia is skeptical. Quinn soon finds himself falling hard for Phylicia. But how can he pursue this beautiful, talented woman twelve years his junior when she’s still reeling over her father’s hasty engagement to a younger woman? Quinn is determined to give Phylicia her happily-ever-after. But first, he must help her come to terms with her discovery of long-held family secrets and persuade her that true love can transcend their differences. (Contemporary Romance from Gilead Publishing)
An Amish Homecoming by Amy Clipston, Kathleen Fuller , Shelley Shepard Gray, and Beth Wiseman — A collection of four new Amish stories of coming home. (General from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)
Miles from Where We Started by Cynthia Ruchti — These no-longer-newlyweds want out of this road trip–and their marriage. Too bad they can’t find the off-ramp. (General Contemporary from Gilead Publishing)
When the Heart Sings by Liz Tolsma — In 1943 Poland, the Nazis have forced Natia and Teodor from their peaceful farm to the harsh confines of a labor camp. When the couple is separated, Natia risks everything to send him messages through song as she passes Teodor’s dormitory. The stakes get higher when Natia finds a Jewish orphan on the doorstep where she works. She is determined to protect the boy and raise him as the child she and her husband were unable to bear—but if her German captors discover how much she’s hiding, both she and Teodor may pay the ultimate price. (Historical from Gilead Publishing)
This Courageous Journey by Misty M. Beller — When Noelle Grant sets off to visit her brother in the Canadian Rockies, the prospect of making a name for herself as a news correspondent finally seems within reach. But when the dangers become more than she bargained for, she finds herself—and the mountain man she’s come to love—in a situation more hazardous than any story her imagination could conjure. (Historical Romance, Independently Published [ACFW QIP])
The Reluctant Warrior by Mary Connealy — Union army officer Cameron Scott is used to being obeyed, but nothing about this journey to Lake Tahoe has gone as expected. He’s come to Lake Tahoe to fetch his daughter and nephew, and seek revenge on the people who killed his brother. Instead he finds himself trapped by a blizzard with two children who are terrified of him and stubborn but beautiful Gwen Harkness, who he worries may be trying to keep the children. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)
Enchanting Nicholette by Dawn Crandall — As she acclimates to life in Back Bay again, Nicholette Everstone meets someone she can’t help but fall for. But when she learns of the danger and sacrifices Cal Hawthorne takes on for the safety of others, will her heart be strong enough to keep her fears of “what if” at bay? (Historical Romance from Whitaker House)
The Christmas Heirloom by Kristi Ann Hunter, Sarah Loudin Thomas, Becky Wade, and Karen Witemeyer — A family heirloom brings true love to its bearers through the generations as it is handed down from mother to daughter. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)
A Heart for Freedom by Janet Grunst — Life was better than she dreamed, now the conflict between the British and the colonists threatened the loss of everything dear, even her husband. (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)
Romancing the Bride by Melissa Jagears — Marrying a stranger to save a ranch is one thing; losing the land on their wedding day is another. Desperate to keep the ranch where three of her children and a husband lie buried, Annie Gephart must marry or sell. Which of the few bachelors in town would consider a surprise proposal to wed a plain widow with a rebellious daughter, a spirited boy, and unpaid taxes—without laughing in her face? (Historical Romance, Independently Published [ACFW QIP])
The Cumberland Bride by Shannon McNear — Thomas Bledsoe and Kate Gruener are traveling the Wilderness Road when conflicts between natives and settlers reach a peak that will require each of them to tap into a well of courage. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)
Mist O’er the Voyageur by Naomi Musch — Desperate to flee a cruel suitor, Metis woman Brigitte Marchal flees into the wilderness to find her long-lost, fur-trader father, but who will save her from the dangers of being a woman among a voyageurs’ brigade? (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)
Five Years In Yemen by Luana Ehrlich — When the President issues a memorandum to bring home a military scientist who went missing in Iraq, CIA operative Titus Ray has been given the assignment. However, when the mission takes an unexpected turn after his contact is murdered in Riyadh, Titus is forced to make changes in the mission’s protocols, changes that endanger his operational team and have lasting consequences for his future. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published [ACFW QIP])
Hidden Peril by Irene Hannon — A woman who owns a fair trade shop and a police detective find themselves plunged into international intrigue—and danger—when people connected with her shop begin dying. (Romantic Suspense from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)
Burden of Proof by DiAnn Mills — A hostage negotiator is thrust into danger and betrayal when a frazzled young woman shoves a crying baby into her arms, then disappears. (Romantic Suspense from Tyndale House)
Surrounded by Darkness by Rachel Dylan — When attorney Olivia Murray opens a legal clinic for victims of domestic violence in Windy Ridge, she knows she will face legal and spiritual opposition. The New Age presence has grown stronger as alliances form between groups hoping to spread their destructive way of life and gain a stronghold in the community. While the forces of evil target Olivia’s new clinic, her legal partner Grant Baxter, and her relationships, she refuses to let them stop her quest for justice. Will Olivia’s and Grant’s faith be strong enough—in God and each other—to prevail in the battle that threatens to bring darkness to the entire town? (Supernatural Thriller, Independently Published [ACFW QIP])
A Dance of Shadows by Erica Marie Hogan — Ten days have passed since Sundragon blood was shed for a sacrifice by Raphaela Kael. Ten days since Lathan and Maxx Jandry fled the city in search of Princess Damari Kael and their niece, Noelle. Brecken Jandry, Brae’s loyal husband, remains a tortured prisoner in the Kael dungeons and no one in Sunkai is safe from Roderick and Raphaela’s wrath. Damari Kael flees Sunkai with little Noelle Jandry, determined to deliver the child to the safety of the Shadow Lands, even as her own power emerges within her. The Eventide Sisters embark on a mission to join the Winter Queen. Across the land, Clea Jandry arrives in her birthplace of Molderëin where she is met with a savagery she thought long dead. Afra Malaki seeks the Creator’s will and the Queen of the Woodlands prepares for battle. In the peaceful city of Quintaria, the Winter Queen grieves. But the shadows are coming for her. They carry a message for Adlae Sundragon, and they will not rest until all is revealed. (Fantasy from Elk Lake Publishing, Inc.)
Body By Blood by Dr. Patrick Johnston — In the not-too-distant future, where cloned bodies are marketable commodities among the super-rich, leaving graveyards of trampled dehumanized classes in science’s wake, the richest man in the world who pioneered the breakthrough technologies learns the meaning of true love from a disabled granddaughter. (Speculative Action Adventure from Ambassador International)
Mercury Rising by Tim and Gail Sattler — Four ordinary people are thrown into an extraordinary situation when they are thrown into a diabolical plot hidden under the guise of global warming. (Contemporary Fantasy from Mantle Rock Publishing)
September 2018 New Releases
More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.
A Baby for the Minister by Laurel Blount — Jilted at the altar, Natalie Davis has no one she can turn to—until Jacob Stone steps in. The single minister’s drawn to the beautiful mommy-to-be and wants to help…even if it goes against his congregation’s wishes and could cost him his job. But when she refuses to accept charity, can he convince her she’s more than a ministry project? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Courting Her Secret Heart by Mary Davis — Deborah Miller lives a double life as an Amish woman—and a fashion model! All photography is forbidden in her Plain community, so she must keep her job a secret. But when Amos Burkholder starts helping at her family’s farm, hiding the truth from him is impossible. And soon she must choose between the Englischer world of modeling and the Amish man she’s come to love. (Contemporary Amish Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
12 Gifts of Christmas by Lena Nelson Dooley — Can Malcolm MacGregor, a contemporary descendant of Scottish lairds, capture the heart of Brazilian-Italian beauty, Alanza Cantalamessa, in 12 days? (Contemporary Romance from Whitaker House)
All Made Up by Kara Isaac — Katriona McLeod has never gotten over Caleb Murphy, the one guy she’s ever loved. When she accepts a job as a make up artist on the latest looking-for-love reality TV show, Falling for the Farmer, she discovers to her horror that Caleb is the leading man and she’s cast as one of his harem. But she hides a secret that means that even if she wanted a second chance with the guy who broke her heart she could never have it. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)
An Amish Holiday Wedding by Carrie Lighte — On the brink of losing her bakery, the last thing Faith Yoder’s interested in is courting—until Hunter Schwartz returns to Willow Creek. After hiring him to deliver her treats to a Christmas festival, Faith’s determined their relationship will stay strictly professional. But despite a secret that’s kept her single, Faith can’t help but wish she and Hunter could become husband and wife. (Contemporary Amish Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Deadly Holiday by Marissa Shrock — The Christmas season greets Georgia Winston with a new boyfriend (maybe), a Christmas program to run, and a man dying at her feet. (Cozy Mystery, Independently Published)
General Contemporary/Women’s Fiction
From the Lake to the River by JPC Allen, Bettie Boswell, Carole Brown, Sandra Merville Hart, Tamera Lynn Kraft, Sharyn Kopf, Michelle Levigne, Cindy Thomson, and Rebecca Waters — Set in Ohio, in the past and present, these nine short stories and novellas by Ohio authors cover a wide range of genres, topics and locations. From Troy in the west to the North Coast and south-central Ohio. From Lake Erie to the Ohio River. From romance to YA adventure, with touches of mystery and humor. Dealing with historical events and situations, such as floods and the lasting effects of the Civil War. With characters involved in square dancing, theater, and music. Dealing with loss and danger, a second chance at love and taking a chance on love for the first time. Chances are good, no matter what you have a taste for reading, you’ll find something to like. Welcome to a taste of the Buckeye State! (General Contemporary from Mt Zion Ridge Press)
Place Called Home by Brenda S. Anderson — While building his graphic design company, Nate Brooks is focused on the future he’s dreamed of: traveling around the country from the comfort of his renovated school bus. But when he picks up a wounded, mysterious hitchhiker, those well-laid plans take a backseat to protecting her. Hobbled by her injury, and unable to keep running from her controlling ex, Tessa fears she’ll never find freedom. Or has she found it with the family who graciously opens their home to her? And will Nate’s protection put his family–and his heart–at risk? (Women’s Fiction, Independently Published)
Swimming in the Deep End by Christina Suzann Nelson — Jillian Connors has big expectations for her teenage daughter, Gabby, an Olympic hopeful—until Gabby becomes pregnant with her boyfriend Travis’s child. Meanwhile, Margaret Owens is furious that Gabby’s condition jeopardizes her son’s baseball scholarship. In the midst of the family drama lies the fate of the unborn baby. What does the future hold for him? (General Contemporary from Kregel Publications)
Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson — A gripping time-slip novel about hidden treasure, a castle, and ordinary people who resisted the evils of the Hitler regime in their own extraordinary way. (Historical from Tyndale House)
Everything She Didn’t Say by Jane Kirkpatrick — A Victorian woman who traveled 15,000 miles by stage between 1870-98 decides to tell the story behind her memoir believing her husband will never see it. (Historical from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)
Enya’s Son by Cindy Thomson — This retelling of the early life of St. Columcille and his mother will usher readers on a fateful journey through ancient Ireland’s monastic centers, her wild coastline islands, and the land Columcille believed was filled with holy angels, a place where he felt safe … yet was destined to abandon. (Historical, Independently Published)
Victorian Christmas Brides by C.J. Chase, Susanne Dietze, Rita Gerlach, Kathleen L. Maher, Gabrielle Meyer, Carrie Fancett Pagels, Vanessa Riley, Lorna Seilstads, and Erica Vetsch — Faced with the daily extremes of gluttony and want in the Victorian Era, nine women seek to create the perfect Christmas celebrations. But will expectations and pride cause them to overlook imperfect men who offer true love? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)
Esther’s Temptation by Lena Nelson Dooley — Saddle weary, former deputy US Marshal Jac Andrews rides into Denton, Texas hunting a swindler-and-daughter criminal team and finally feels he’s caught up to them. Unfortunately, he becomes distracted by the lovely redhead, Esther Brians. Esther, feeling like an old maid surrounded by all her close friends who are happy married couples, is drawn to the intense gaze, blue as the Texas sky, of an unknown cowboy. But several things cause her to become wary of his intentions—and his spiritual well-being. Has this unsaved lawman captured Esther’s heart or will the Lord deliver her from the temptation of Jac’s presence? What will it take for Jac to win this lovely lady and become Esther’s husband? (Historical Romance, Independently Published)
The Sound of Distant Thunder by Jan Drexler — Katie Stuckey and Jonas Weaver are both romantics. Seventeen-year-old Katie is starry-eyed, in love with the idea of being in love, and does not want to wait to marry Jonas until she is eighteen, despite her parents’ insistence. So much can happen in a year. Twenty-year-old Jonas is taken in by the romance of soldiering, especially in defense of anti-slavery, even though he knows war is at odds with the teachings of the church. When his married brother’s name comes up in the draft list, he volunteers to take his brother’s place. But can the commitment Katie and Jonas have made to each other survive the separation? (Historical Romance from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)
Loving the Texas Negotiator by Mary Connealy — Beth Garrison is the top hostage negotiator in Rocky Ridge Texas. She’s called in to a task force to investigate a killing that is a copy cat of her first bust as a rookie cop. The Valentine Killer.
Tate McCade, with the best arrest record on the force and a reputation for steamrolling anyone who gets in his way, heads the task force. He’s had a run-in with Beth and her oversized ego. He’s got a bruise on his face to prove it. Rather than have the pleasure of busting her back to walking a beat, he has to work with her. And the clock is ticking because there’s a woman and child missing and nothing about the crime adds up. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)
Guardian of Ajalon by Joan Campbell — The poison tree path is Shara’s road home. . .if she and her companions can survive the journey. In the danger and darkness of the forest, her only respite is in the story unlocked in the Old Tongue book. In this vivid world, Shara finally discovers what she has longed for all her life: the key to the secrets of her past. Yet time is running out for Shara—and all of Tirragyl—as Lord Lucian, King Alexor, and the royal army attack the Guardian Grotto to claim the powerful Guardian Rock. Unwilling to sit idly by as her kingdom is destroyed, Queen Nyla leaves her hiding place to recruit a most unlikely army—the Charab. But how can she win over the infamous assassins who have been oppressed by her family for generations? (S
There’s something happening here.
What it is ain’t exactly clear.*
I’m not in the habit of quoting protest songs from the 1960s. In fact, I’m less than enamored with the Sixties, as a rule, my birth during that volatile decade notwithstanding. However … and with deepest apologies to Buffalo Springfield … those are the words that keep springing to my mind recently.
Some sort of shift is taking place, deep inside my core. I feel unsettled and restless, drawn to something I can’t yet name. This sensation could be the result of too much caffeine, or of eating dinner too late at night, or of ingesting seafood that’s gone a bit “off.”
But I don’t think so.
A couple of recent events gave rise to this feeling (I’m making every effort to avoid using the tired, baggage-laden word “triggered.” It’s worn out its welcome.)
The first event was a gut-punch to my midsection when I of the Association of Library Service to Children (a division of the American Library Association)’s decision to remove Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from a prestigious children’s book award. According to the ALSC website, “Wilder’s legacy, as represented by her body of work, includes expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC’s core values of inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness.” So, some eighty years after her books were published and sixty years after her death, Laura Ingalls Wilder is to be booted out of the pantheon of American literature for not being up-to-date.
I’d barely had time to process my deep feels of regret over this disappointment when a second incident occurred. A lazy Saturday-morning browse of my local (if an hour away can be called local) Barnes & Noble produced a book that promised a cheeky look back at Victorian manners and morals. Expecting to be both enlightened and amused, I scanned a few pages and thrust it back on the shelf. It wasn’t a book most readers of this blog would enjoy. Instead of offering the reader an interesting trip in the Wayback Machine, it was a snarky, mocking, and thoroughly unfunny skewering of Victorian viewpoints concerning femininity, gender relations, and a host of other topics. What could have been a delightful, charming book, both amusing and informative, failed to do either as it vented its vindictive, mean-spirited spleen against the ideals of an earlier generation.
Now, clearly, I’ve rejected books before. Plenty of them. I’ve placed thousands of them back on the shelf or deleted them from my Amazon cart with regularity and not given them another thought. So why is this particular book still pricking at my mind days later? Because I think these seemingly insignificant events, both of them, are symptoms of a deeper problem.
Have you heard the term “presentism”? I hadn’t either, until quite recently. When I first heard it I was tempted to roll my eyes at yet another “ism” to supposedly confront and contend with. But this one actually clicks with me. According to dictionary.com, presentism is “uncritical adherence to present-day attitudes, especially the tendency to interpret past events in terms of modern values and concepts.” In other words, it means judging people of the past by the standards of today. It’s painting Laura Ingalls Wilder or Mark Twain or Agatha Christie or a host of other authors with the damning stripe of “racist” or “sexist” or “classist,” when their writings merely reflecting commonly held viewpoints and thought-patterns typical of their place and time in history. It means skewering authors of the past (among other people–name your historical hero and I bet there’s some lode of non-PC something-or-other in his or her life, waiting to be unearthed) for not being feminist enough or environmentally-friendly enough or fill-in-the-blank enough to suit their very specific 21st-century standards.
This is what makes me angry: the wholesale slandering of historical figures based on 21st-century standards. Makes me angry enough to … what? That’s the part I haven’t figured out yet. Angry enough to write a blog post: done. But then what? Does Laura Ingalls Wilder need my help? Do the Victorians? I think not.
The name of this blog (in case you didn’t know, which you probably didn’t because I’m neglectful at pointing it out) is A Sparkling Vintage Life. Its mission is to celebrate the best of the past, to enjoy historical fiction and nonfiction, and to incorporate vintage touches into a modern life. To uphold wholesome, healthy, and God-honoring values. “The best of the past” does not mean approving of racism, sexism, and other “isms” so offensive to modern sensibilities. But neither does it mean throwing out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. It means taking what works and leaving the rest. Being a generous enough human to respect fellow humans who went before us for what they did well, and extending grace to (and learning from) those things we no longer accept or condone in this generation.
Laura Ingalls Wilder deserves to be admired as a writer whose stories have been beloved by generations. There are ways to point out what modern eyes see as her failings, without trashing her entire reputation.
The ways of the Victorians deserve to be respected, studied, and learned from, not mocked and ridiculed. Yes, they had their oddball quirks, to be sure, and it’s fine and good to point out where we disagree, to see how far we’ve come as a society in certain respects. But there are things we can learn from them, too. Things that are worth preserving,worth bringing back. It’s arrogant and prideful to think our society is so much “better” than theirs. And anyone who thinks our generation doesn’t have just as many oddball quirks, if not more, is simply delusional.
Oh, dear. I believe I’ve gone off on a ramble. If you’ve read this far, thank you for your patience. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with these feelings churning about in my psyche. I just know that the past must not be painted over with politically correct Day-Glo. There are things worth saving, conserving, preserving, bringing back.
What can I do about it? Maybe nothing. Or maybe something. What it is ain’t exactly clear. Stay tuned.
And thank you for living out your own juicy, generous, and joy-filled Sparkling Vintage Life.
It will probably come as a surprise to exactly zero readers of this blog that I’m a huge fan of Victoria magazine, that venerable grande dame of gracious living. I keep back issues organized by season and flip through them whenever I need some inspiration or a little pick-me-up.
I was perusing the Victoria blog recently (The Ribbon in My Journal) and was thunderstruck to stumble across my own name, on a comment I posted in 2014. The question was something like “why do you like to read Victoria,” and I was tickled to realize I still agree with every word I wrote some four years ago. Here’s what I wrote:
“I always appreciate seeing examples of ways to incorporate vintage-style clothing, etc., into modern life without appearing too “costume-y.” Love reading about other kindred spirits who appreciate the best of the past and suspect that sometimes we’ve thrown out the baby with the bathwater when it comes to modernization–who don’t roll their eyes and say, “Yeah, but cholera! But no air-conditioning!” when I wax nostalgic about the past.”
But that wasn’t enough laud and honor, lol. I gushingly continued:
“I’ve been enjoying a book called Let’s Bring Back by Lesley M. M. Blume that talks about things we’ve lost and sometimes miss, such as hats on gentlemen and “powder rooms” and steamer trunks. Then when I pick up Victoria and see a way to use, say, a steamer trunk in my home, maybe not for its original purpose but in some other way, I feel like I can honor the past and keep bits of it always with me. I look forward to Victoria as a refreshing respite from the harshness of modern life, but I REALLY love it when I get an inspiration for grace notes to add to my life in a practical way. I don’t have to just shut the magazine with a sigh and a wistful “Wouldn’t it be nice…” but can actually incorporate elements of a more gracious time into my everyday life. Thank you!”
If you enjoy old-fashioned things and ways of living the way I do, give Victoria a try.
(FYI I’m not connected to the magazine or company in any way, financially or otherwise; just an avid fan.)
July 2018 New Releases
More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.
A Widow’s Hope by Vannetta Chapman — After tragedy claimed her husband’s life and her son’s ability to walk, Hannah King doesn’t want a new man. She has her family, a home and mounting debts. Scarred Amish bachelor Jacob Schrock offers Hannah the job she desperately needs. But while Hannah helps Jacob resolve his accounting issues, can she and her little boy also heal his wounded heart? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Firestorm by Laura V. Hilton — Bridget Behr can’t shake the guilt that it was her fault her family moved—and is too afraid to trust anyone, especially the flirtatious, overly-friendly Amish man who lives next door. Just as Bridget is finally settling into friendship, a new life, and maybe even love, a devastating forest fire ravages the county, destroying both land and the Behrs’ dreams. Now Bridget and her family must decide: will they leave behind the ashes and start anew in another Amish community? Or will they dare to fight for the future they’d hoped for in Mackinac County? (Contemporary Romance from Whitaker House)
Ride to the Altar by Linda W. Yezak — Cattle are dying on the Circle Bar, putting the Texas ranch in financial jeopardy. Newly engaged Patricia Talbert and Talon Carlson must root out the cause before they can concentrate on wedding plans—which involves Patricia’s traveling to New York to patch things up with her domineering mother. While she is away, Talon discovers that the attacks on the ranch are connected to the murder of his first fiancée over eight years ago. Before they can move forward together, each have to resolve the past. Will they be able to start their new life with a clean slate? (General Contemporary from Canopy Books of Texas)
My Heart Belongs in Galveston, Texas by Kathleen Y’Barbo — Dodging bullets takes a simple missing person case to a new level as Jonah Cahill, a Pinkerton agent, and Madeline Latour, an investigative reporter, form a tentative truce in Galveston, Texas, 1880. Are they on to a much bigger story when their best witness is suddenly kidnapped? (General Historical from Barbour Publishing)
The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond by Jaime Jo Wright — Two women, separated by a hundred years, must uncover the secrets within the borders of their own town before it’s too late and they lose their future–or their very souls. (Historical Mystery from Bethany House [Baker])
This Freedom Journey by Misty M. Beller — Adrien Lockman left France to finally live life on his own terms, but when he discovers a half-starved and half-frozen woman in the treacherous Canadian mountains, the truth soon becomes clear—the only way they’ll survive is together. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)
The Widow’s Plight by Mary Davis — After moving to a new town and joining a quilting circle, a single mother steps out of the shadows of abuse and into the sunshine. But will a secret clouding her past cost her the man she loves? (Historical Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)
River to Redemption by Ann H. Gabhart — Orphaned during an early 19th century cholera epidemic and helped by a slave to find a new home, Adria Starr must now stand up for his freedom—and maybe find her own in the process. (Historical Romance from Revell [Baker])
A Rumored Fortune by Joanna Davidson Politano — A young heiress is suddenly the poorest wealthy woman in all of England when her father dies without telling anyone where he put his money. (Historical Romance from Revell [Baker])
Guarded Prognosis by Richard L. Mabry — At first Dr. Caden Taggart feared for his freedom, then for his ability to cope, and eventually he feared for his life. (Medical Mystery, Independently Published)
Darkwater Secrets by Robin Caroll — When Adelaide Fountaine, the general manager of a hotel in New Orleans, finds the body of a guest who was stabbed with a kitchen knife, her childhood friend Detective Beau Savoie is shocked to discover a connection between his friend–the woman he’s quietly loved for years—and the murdered guest. But Beau can’t press Adelaide too hard . . . because he’s keeping secrets of his own. Can Adelaide and Beau afford to hide from the truth with a killer on the loose? (Romantic Suspense from Gilead Publishing)
Camp Hope by Sara L. Foust — Facing dehydration, starvation, and a convoluted kidnapper, will Amy succeed in recovering her precious foster daughter or get lost in a vast wilderness forever? (Romantic Suspense from Mantle Rock Publishing)
Dead Drift by Dani Pettrey — Seven years ago, operative Luke Gallagher vanished to join an elite team of terrorist hunters. Private investigator Kate Maxwell never stopped loving or looking for Luke after he disappeared. But she also never imagined he left her or his life by choice. Now he’s back, asking her help to stop America’s newest terrorist threat—an attack that would shake the country to its core. Together they must navigate secrets, lies, and betrayal, all while on the brink of a biological disaster. Will they and their love survive, or will Luke and Kate become the terrorist’s next mark? (Romantic Suspense from Bethany House [Baker])
Launch by Jason C. Joyner — Teens with special abilities are invited to an exclusive conference where tech billionaire Simon Mazor is looking for those who can help him influence the world. (Young Adult from Little Lamb Books)
“Style is not applying make-up in public, indulging in a passion for ornament, or rushing out to purchase the latest design in a fashion product. Nor is style the ignoring of social conventions, such as going without a hat or gloves on city streets or other places good taste indicates they should be worn. Style is not wearing slacks or shorts, or head scarves, or going without hose on these same city streets. Style is not wearing our evening finery during working hours. Style is not wearing hair curlers and unattractive garments among family members so that one can be a ravishing beauty for strangers.” (Grace Margaret Morton, The Arts of Costume and Personal Appearance, 1943)
Some days I think thank goodness those days are over. Who wants to feel they have to wear hose to be decently dressed? Other days I think how far we have fallen. It will come as no surprise to readers of A Sparkling VIntage Life that much of modern life grates on my last nerve. I think tight yoga pants worn outside of the yoga studio without something draped over top are pretty much an abomination on most human shapes. Maybe that’s why I’m so drawn to vintage-style clothing and attitudes. And yet, my own wardrobe too often contains the drab, the unflattering, and the shabby, because I’m “too busy” to think about clothes or “too comfortable” to rouse myself to put on something with a proper zipper.
What are we saying out ourselves as a society when we not only give our own selves a pass on slovenliness, but admire it in others as some sort of virtue signaling?
I don’t have the answer. Just a question that’s been banging around in my head recently. Feel free to weigh in.