Sparkling Vintage Fiction. Among other things.

Short Fiction

A Christmas story from L. M. Montgomery

This week the Sparkling Vintage Life Ladies’ Reading Circle is reading and talking about “Christmas at Red Butte,” a short story by L. M. Montgomery, beloved author of Anne of Green Gables and many other stories. Come join us on Facebook if you like fiction featuring the early 20th century time period.

L. M. (Lucy Maud) Montgomery

Announcing a new Roaring Twenties Short Story: Playing for Keeps

Sparklers, I’ve been busy! Not only am I in the middle of editorial revisions to the as-yet-untitled sequel to You’re the Cream in My Coffee, but I’ve written a new Roaring Twenties Short Story. This time the story stars Helen Corrigan, Marjorie’s younger sister, who travels aboard the Northern Pacific to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, to visit an old school chum. Idaho is nothing like Helen expected–and neither is Maisie. This is a sweet, tender short story of a spirited girl teetering on the brink of womanhood. If you enjoyed You’re the Cream in My Coffee, you’ll love “Playing for Keeps“–and so will your daughter and granddaughter, your kid sister and niece, and any other young (and older!) ladies you know.

And here’s more good news! For a limited time, subscribers to the Sparkling Vintage Life newsletter can read “Playing for Keeps” for free! To sign up, simply enter your e-mail in the “Subscribe” box to the right.

Sneak Peak: The Sequel!

Happy New Year! Since the story opens on New Year’s Eve, I thought I’d give you a sneak peek of my next novel (as yet untitled).  Enjoy!

 

At exactly three hours and fifty-seven minutes before midnight on New Year’s Eve, Dot Rodgers slid the lacy forest-green dress over her head, smoothed it into place, tied the wide satin sash around her hips, took one look at herself in the narrow bedroom mirror, and ripped the horrid thing off again.

“Ugh!” she muttered, nose twitching as green lace brushed against her face. The dress would have been the ideal choice if she were traveling back in time to her Indiana high school’s Holiday Hop, instead of heading off to a sophisticated soiree at her friend Veronica’s Chicago apartment.

She flung the offending garment onto the pile of discarded clothing strewn across her bed, a mishmash of demure frocks festooned with bits of ribbon, lace, and tatting, as if somebody’s Grandma Lou had been set to work fashioning collars and cuffs. Remarkably, she had only herself to blame, Each garment had been deliberately acquired in recent weeks by Dot herself, part of a sincere campaign to transform herself into someone she was not.
But now, under the rosy glow of her scarlet-shaded lamp, each and every dress looked like it belonged in someone else’s closet. Perhaps Marjorie’s closet. Yes, these clothes would suit Dot’s best friend and roommate, Marjorie Corrigan, to a T. But on Dot they felt like costumes borrowed from a theater, as if she were a character in a play. And a supporting cast member at that, she thought darkly. Not even the star of the show, which was tough on a woman who enjoyed the spotlight.

In fact, if Marjorie had been present, Dot would have handed her the dress without hesitation, and been delighted to watch her eyes light up. Lace! Ribbons! But her friend was visiting her hometown of Kerryville, ringing in the New Year with her family and neck-deep in preparations for her wedding to Peter Bachmann, set to take place on Valentine’s Day. Trust a romantic soul like Marjorie to choose a wedding day already overburdened with hearts and flowers and sentimental cherubs aiming poison arrows at unsuspecting people.

Not that love was poison, exactly. But it did complicate a girl’s life to no end.

Hands on hips, Dot surveyed the wreckage heaped the bed. Hopeless. Not one outfit qualified to be worn out on the town. She wanted something dazzling and eye-catching and fun, but also the sort of dress Charlie would approve of. Not that he ever complained about what she wore. He never complained about anything which, to be frank, was part of the problem. He treated Dot as if she were an ideal specimen of womanhood, which embarrassed her, knowing how very wrong he was about that. But she also knew, without his saying so, that he appreciated the kind of lady who dressed modestly, who would fit easily into the social life of Kerryville, such as it was, and wouldn’t attract undue attention. Over the few months that they’d been seeing each other, she’d tried to reform herself into that kind of girl. But old habits died hard. And now it was New Year’s Eve, a night to shine if there ever was one, and they were going to a party with all her old friends from the cabaret. What would they think if she showed up dressed like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, that sugar-sweet novel from her youth?

Dot shivered in her thin satin slip. Frankly, she deserved to have a good time, after the disastrous Christmas she’d had. She should have known better than to go to show up unannounced on her family’s Indiana doorstep on Christmas Day. Her father’s angry voice still rang in her head.

Jezebel.

It was all Charlie’s fault. She never would have gone, if he hadn’t encouraged her. Make peace with your mother and sisters, he’d said. Don’t let your father bully you. Well, that had gone well, hadn’t it? Maybe all that forgiveness and reconciliation stuff worked well in a perfect family like the Corrigans, but not in the household of Reverend Oliver Barker. Yes, she was crazy about Charlie, but he ought not to have interfered.And she should have known better than to take his advice.

The chime of the small clock on the dresser jolted her back to reality. Charlie would be pressing the door buzzer any minute. With fresh defiance, she marched to the jam-packed closet, shoved aside skirts and sweaters, and reached to the back for a sparkly silver dress last worn to a shindig at Louie’s Villa Italiana. Here was a real party dress, and she’d wear it whether Charlie approved or not.

Eagerly she slipped the dress over her head, adjusted the hem, and cast an admiring glance in the mirror. That was more like it! Covered in metallic beads and silky fringe, it caught the light with every move she made. From the top drawer of the dresser she selected a headband encrusted with jet beads and rhinestones and slid it onto her brow, resting it over her smooth dark bangs. She clipped on a pair of ornate chandelier earbobs, enjoying the feel of the cool metal grazing her jawline. She added a long rope of beads, knotting them at the breastbone. A final flick of the comb to her straight, chin-length bob, a quick swipe of red lipstick and a sweep of kohl around her eyes, and she was ready, just as the buzzer sounded.

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Marshall Field’s Ornament Giveaway!

 

Update 12/19/2016: We have a winner! Slayton.amitchell, I’ll be contacting you for your mailing address, and this little soldier will be on its way to you pronto. Thanks to everyone who participated!

“Say the word ‘Christmastime’ and most people think of manger scenes and jingle bells, the glow of colored lights and the flutter of angels’ wings. But at the great Marshall Field & Company, Chicago’s premier department store, Christmastime meant all that and more, along with enough crowds, clanging, and clatter to shatter a sales clerk’s nerves. I know this because that clerk was me.” (Marjorie Corrigan in  The Christmas Robe)

 

Readers of You’re the Cream in My Coffee and The Christmas Robe know that the heroine, Marjorie, works at Chicago’s world-class department store, Marshall Field & Co., in the 1920s. While this sweet toy-soldier ornament does not date back to the 1920s (alas!), it is a genuine Marshall Field’s commemorative ornament, complete with the original gift box. It’s in excellent condition, gold-finish metal filigree with a silky cord, about 4 inches tall. And I’m giving him away to a Sparkling Vintage community member! To enter the drawing, do one of two things:

  1. If you’re not already signed up to receive my e-newsletter, sign up by entering your e-mail in the box at right. All new sign-ups between now and December 18 will be automatically entered in the drawing.
  2. If you’re already part of the e-newsletter community and you’d like a chance to win, say so in the comment section below, or drop me a line on  Facebook and I’ll add you to the drawing.

That’s it! A winner will be chosen at random on the evening of Sunday, Dec. 18, and the ornament mailed out to the winner on Dec. 19 (U.S. and Canada only, please.)

Merry Christmas!

Jennifer

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“The Christmas Robe”: A free short story, and a request

the_christmas_robe_book_cover_v2

Cover design by Thomas Leo

 

Big crazy news…I just taught myself how to upload a book to Amazon! My “practice” book is actually a short story, just in time for Christmas. Called “The Christmas Robe,” it’s set in the 1920s and features Marjorie Corrigan, heroine of my forthcoming novel.

I’d wanted to make it free on Amazon, but it turns out I can only do that if I agree to list it exclusively on Amazon, which I don’t want to do. So it costs 99 cents there. BUT, dear readers, if you simply swing your cursor over to the right-hand side of this here website and sign up for my quarterly newsletter, A Sparkling Vintage Life, you’ll get it for free! (I use the term “quarterly” loosely. It’s been more like “annual, more or less” up to now. But I vow to do better in 2016. Really I do. On the plus side, history shows I won’t be cluttering up your mailbox…).

If you read “The Christmas Robe” and enjoy it, if I will be forever in your debt if you then take a moment and zip over to Amazon and leave a review. Reviews are solid gold to unknown first-time authors like yours truly. Heck, you could even subscribe to the newsletter, download the free story, read it, write a review, and unsubscribe from the newsletter! No judgment here.

And if you read the story and prefer not to leave a review…well, that’s okay, too. I simply hope you enjoy “The Christmas Robe” as my gift to you.

And if you’re already a newsletter subscriber, you’ll automatically get a copy of the story, as soon as I figure out how to do that. 🙂 (Edited to add: I think I figured it out, so all current subscribers should have received it by now. If you haven’t–and you want it–send me an email at jenny (at) jenniferlamontleo (dot) com and I’ll look into the glitch.)

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Jennifer

The Waltz: A Short Story from Long Ago

Here’s a ghost story I wrote as a college student years ago (dare I admit decades ago?) for a creative writing class assignment. I found it in a box of old papers as I was cleaning a closet, and I thought you might enjoy it. I no longer write ghost stories but I thought it was a fun read and an interesting foreshadow of my present passion for historical fiction. And it earned me an A grade, back in the day, banged out on an IBM Selectric. (If you don’t know what that is, children, ask your elders.)  I’ve left it unchanged except for switching the color of the Union soldier’s uniform from gray to blue, because, duh. So here you go.

Old_Letter

The Waltz
by Jennifer Lamont Leo (a.k.a. “Jenny Lamont, Creative Writing 212”)

The letters are the first to ignite, hissing and whispering in the hot glow, and then the trunks of clothing. There go my gowns, the jade velvet I wore at Christmastime, the cream lace with the rosebud sash. Pity they can’t be saved. I did so love them. How gracefully the flames lick at the rafters, the tragic beams.

If I must be confined somewhere, I suppose there are worse places than this attic in the house on Cherry Street. Sometimes on fine afternoons the sunlight filters through the willow in the yard and creates an intricate dappled pattern on the wooden floor. It’s quite pretty, really.

We like to dance among the dapples, my soldier and I. As though at a ball, we dip and spin and twirl, until the sun sinks lower in the sky and the dappled dance floor disappears. I dispatch my soldier to fetch me a glass of punch, and I fan myself while I wait for his return. Darkness falls. I wait. Sometimes as the hall clock strikes the early morning hours I roam the attic, softly calling his name, but it’s no use. Across the cool gray meadow of memory the cannons thunder, and I remember. My soldier won’t be calling again. Not again, that is, until some other fine afternoon, when next we waltz.

It’s a curious game, the waltz with my soldier, but I find it amusing. There’s not much amusement in this attic, in this house on Cherry Street. The attic is my prison; in the attic I must stay, waiting for my soldier.

The Channings live downstairs. Elizabeth Channing is my relation; a great-great-grandniece on my brother Robert’s side. A grainy photograph of Robert hangs in the library. Robert, proud in his blue uniform, trying earnestly to look more mature than his eighteen years would allow. Will they rescue it from the fire? The photograph. Will they awaken in time to carry it to safety?

The Channings seldom come up to the attic anymore, especially now that they’re getting up in years. There was a time when children would come up to the attic on rainy days to root around in dusty trunks and play dress-up in my gowns. On occasion they would happen upon my portrait, wrapped in yellowed newspapers, and would whisper to each other the story of mad Charlotte who died of a broken heart., for the love of a Union soldier. I would hover quietly and listen, as one does upon hearing one’s name mentioned in conversation. The children ordinarily gave no recognition of my presence. However, as the shadows grew longer and the stories grew bolder, they would shift nad squirm a bit and mention dinner. They would then scramble down the stairs, complaining of a sudden chill. I was always sorry to seethem go. So seldom did I have companions in my lonely attic. Yet I could not force them to stay and I could not join them. In the attic I must stay, waiting for my soldier.

The letters are here, all of them. I am surprised that they were never burned, burned in grief, burned in rage. With rage my father denounced the Union cause, with rage he banished my soldier from my life. With grief I read that last letter, postmarked from some small Pennsylvania town, splotched with rain and tears. Yet with what strange dispassion did I watch them cut the rope from the attic rafter and bear my body away.

It is the letters that bind me here, bidding me forever to repeat the waltz, the waiting, the grief born of lines penned by a faraway soldier. Letters of hope and love, passion and pain, life and death. The letters are my chains. They keep the story alive; they keep me alive. The letters must go, so that I, too, may go.

It is all quite simple, really. A stray spark from a sputtering lamp, a warm dry gust, an attic fire in an old house, ordinary and everyday. No one need ever know. The letters are the first to ignite. The flames dance across rafters and down walls, down to where the Channings sleep in the carved oak bed.

Amid the shower of sparks I stretch the length of my being up to the night sky, reaching for the one who beckons me to come join the waltz.

 

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