Sparkling Vintage Fiction. Among other things.

You’re the Cream in My Coffee

Sparkling Vintage Gathering: An Early 20th Century Christian Fiction Lovers “sociable” on Facebook!

Hello, Sparklers! Just a quick message to tell you I’ll be participating in an Early 20th Century Christian Fiction Lovers Facebook party. on Friday, October 6, 2017. I’m one of 8 authors who will appear in half-hour segments beginning at 3 p.m. Pacific time (6 p.m. Eastern). My own slot is from 3:30-4 p.m. Pacific. I’ll be giving away a copy of You’re the Cream in My Coffee as well as a sparkly butterfly necklace from the 1928 Company (pictured at left) because the story’s set in 1928. There’ll be 7 other authors appearing as well, with other great prizes. Find out all the details here and drop in if you’re able.

Sparkle on!

Jennifer

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Musings and updates

It’s been pretty quiet recently here on the blog. For those of you who read my fiction (and if you’re not, why not??? Just kidding … sort of), I’ve been working with an editor on polishing up Ain’t Misbehavin’, the sequel to You’re the Cream in My Coffee, slated for March 2018 publication.

I also finished up a fun short story starring Helen Corrigan (Marjorie’s younger sister–sort of like Skipper to Marjorie’s Barbie), called “Playing for Keeps.” You can get it free by joining the Sparkling Vintage reader community (sign-up to your right), or buy it for a buck on Amazon.

In June had a fantastic time at the Historical Novel Society‘s conference in Portland, Oregon. I spoke on the topic “Anatomy of a Book Launch,” discussing activities surrounding the launch of You’re the Cream in My Coffee last fall. I opened up about which tactics I felt were “worth it” in terms of building a readership and drawing attention to the book, and which ones I would skip in the future, and what I wished I’d done differently. The audience appeared eager to hear what I had to say and we had some great interaction. Other highlights of the conference included meeting several authors I admire, including Laura Frantz and Libbie Hawker, and absorbing tons of inspiration and tips on improving my writing and research methods. I felt at home among people to whom I didn’t have to explain or justify my fascination with days of yore. The conference took place smack in downtown Portland (two words: Powell’s Books), which gave me a change of scenery and also reinforced my love of rural life. So many people. So much noise. My introverted self was happy for the change of scenery, and even happier to return home to my peaceful mountain.

Speaking of peaceful, I’ve decided that’s my word for Summer 2017. On the personal side, I’ve been healing up from a major health scare and surgery that happened in the spring. I’m doing great now and am practically good as new, but my energy level took a big hit and I’ve had to pull back temporarily on my usual darting-hither-and-yon lifestyle. This summer so far has been a quiet, low-key time of healing, reflection, and re-evaluation. As I prayerfully examine my priorities, I’ve come to realize I haven’t always been putting time and energy where I’d like to (my spiritual life, my health(!), writing new fiction, sharing thoughts on this blog, engaging with the Sparkling Vintage community) in favor of things more urgent in the moment, maybe, but less important in the long run. Trying to figure out what changes need to be made going forward.

Finally, I was pleased to learn that You’re the Cream in My Coffee has been named a finalist in the debut-novel category of the ACFW Carol Awards. Looking at the list of finalists, I’m both honored and humbled that Marjorie made the cut.

And that’s enough rambling for today. I’m lining up some fun posts on ways to vintage sparkle to your summertime, so check back soon. As always, I welcome your thoughts, questions, and suggestions at jenny @ jenniferlamontleo dot com.

Sparkle on!

 

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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.

Another random mug-ging! (mug giveaway)

 

UPDATE: We have our winner! Congratulations, Kathy Conger! And welcome to all our new subscribers.

I know it’s March…but who says the Irish get all the good luck?

It’s been WAY too long since I’ve done a giveaway, so I’ve decided to give away a handcrafted “You’re the Cream in My Coffee” mug, pictured at right. Designed and made by Greg Lamont of Lamont Pottery in Ames, Iowa, this limited-edition mug will keep your heart as warm as your beverage. (Hint: Its big handle and robust size also make it a great gift for the gentleman in your life.)

The contest is open to all Sparkling Vintage Life newsletter subscribers, whether you’re a longtime subscriber or brand-new to the fold. Subscribe by entering your e-mail in the space to the right of the screen. The winner will be chosen by random drawing on March 17, 2017. EDITED: I’M EXTENDING THE GIVEAWAY TO MARCH 20. MAY THE LUCK OF THE IRISH BE WITH YOU!

 

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Sparkling Vintage Charm School: Telephone Manners

I don’t know if it’s due to the Age of Texting or what, but recently I’ve noticed a marked decline in telephone manners. So I thought it might be a good time for a refresher, circa 1938:

“If possible, the telephone should be placed so that one can have privacy and quiet while talking,” wrote Marianne Meade of the Junior League. “In many houses this is not possible, so the family must make up in courtesy what is lacking in convenience. [Once upon a time, families shared one telephone, or perhaps a main phone and one extension.] They must not consciously listen to what is being said, and they should also refrain from unnecessary noise or loud talking. This does not mean, however, that conversation should give way to a dead silence until the telephone call is completed, but rather that the family should continue to talk in low tones.

“While not in the best of taste, some member of the family may ask who it was that phoned, and he should receive a courteous answer. But the questioning should go no further unless the call concerns the entire family, or unless the person who received the call is inclined to give more details. Incidentally, it is not considerate to engage in prolonged telephone conversations, because you thereby prevent others from making and receiving calls which may be much more important than yours.” [Yes, children, entire households used to share not only one telephone, but one telephone line to the house. Some even shared the line with other households in the neighborhood, called a “party line.” Oh, the horror!]

Writing for teens, Eleanor Boykin added, “You can never be sure when you telephone a friend that you will not interrupt a visit or call him from a shower bath, but you can considerately void telephoning very early in the morning or late at night, or at the usual hours for meals.” [Do families even have set meal times anymore? Well, it’s a nice idea.]

On answering the telephone: Miss Boykin went on to say, “When you are on the answering end of the telephone, put a smile into your voice. As soon as you hear who your caller is, greet him as pleasantly as if he were at your front door. ‘Hello, Billy, how are you’ or ‘I’m glad to hear from you, Helen.” Don’t grunt”Yeah, what is it?” It is the caller’s place to bring the talk to a close.

On taking messages pre-voicemail: “Telephone messages for absent members of the family should be written down just as carefully and delivered just as faithfully as in an efficient office,” wrote Hallie Erminie Rives. “If a pad and pencil is kept beside the telephone, or better yet, fasted in place, there will be no excuse for not writing the message exactly as it is given. The message may then be put with the proper person’s mail, or left in a designated place, so that the individual can get it even if no one is around to tell him about it when he returns home.”

On using a public telephone: Miss Rives cautions, “Always note if someone is anxiously waiting to use it. Long gossipy chats while others wait should be taboo.”

In You’re the Cream in My Coffee, Marjorie runs into this situation when she stays at the YWCA and must share a public phone:

In the lobby, I tapped my foot and tried to catch the heavily shadowed eye of the bottle-blonde now hogging the sole telephone.

“‘So I says to him, I says, “Just how do you expect me to do that?” And he says to me–get this, Myra–he says, “I dunno, you figure it out, you’re supposed to be the smart one.” So I says to him–hold on a sec, Myra.’ The blonde placed her hand over the mouthpiece and glared at me. ‘You want something, sister?’

‘Yes, the telephone. Are you almost through?‘”

You can see the problem.

In her book of etiquette, Miss Rives says, “Certainly one should never use a coin box telephone for the ‘Guess-who-this-is’ type of all or for the continuation of the family argument started the night before. Men should not smoke in the tiny, airless cubicle.” [Note: Women were not to smoke at all. Elsewhere the author notes, “In the larger cities women now smoke so generally that it almost seems as though they are destined to use the weed wherever and whenever men do. As yet, however, women of breeding do not smoke on the street, or in a public conveyance.” ]

Yes, texting is convenient and carries its own set of rules. But it never hurts to brush up on the basics of actually talking to another person on the phone.

 

 

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Talking about writing, Prohibition, and more

 

Not Peter Leavell (but the hat would be a nice touch) Photo source: nymag.com

I was very pleased to be interviewed by accomplished author (and fellow Idahoan) Peter Leavell, author of Gideon’s Call and West for the Black Hills, on behalf of American Christian Fiction Writers. He asked insightful, thoughtful questions about the 1920s, the writing process, and more. Check out the interview here.

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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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Does Fiction Sometimes Grate on Your Last Nerve?

dorothy-parkerHello, Sparklers.

I’ve been enjoying literary agent Ann Byle’s “I’m Annoyed by Christian Fiction” series of posts, starting here (be sure to read the whole series–there are some things she likes about it, too!). As annoyances, she names things like too many “zings” per page. A “zing” is when the hero admires the heroine’s alabaster skin and the heroine admires the hero’s rippling biceps–some zings are needed to establish attraction, but too many can be like too much pepper in the soup. A little goes a long way.

Another phenomenon Ann mentions is the “I’m fine” syndrome, where characters toss off deep lacerations, lack of food or sleep for days, etc., with a glib “I’m fine,” reminding me of Monty Python’s Black Knight: “‘Tis but a flesh wound.” (stagger, stagger).

Several readers joined the chorus, expressing fatigue with heroines who are impossibly beautiful, heroes who are invariably handsome, and damsels who forget to eat when under stress. (Some people do lose their appetite. Others rip through entire boxes of graham crackers smeared with Nutella. Don’t ask).

I have a few pet peeves of my own, including loving and loyal best friends who appear in exactly one scene and are never heard from again, simply to advance some plot point, and children who remain unflaggingly adorable, winsome, and charming for an unrealistic 24/7.

Anyway, I was relieved to see that You’re the Cream in My Coffee does not annoy in the ways Ann and her followers mention.

*Lead character Marjorie is not impossibly beautiful. She’s not even particularly slim. Her hair tends to frizz, and she laments that the straight, boyish fashion silhouette of the 1920s does not work well with her curves.

*The man she’s engaged to marry is good-looking, but he wears spectacles, so his vision is not 20/20, so he’s not an unflawed specimen. And The Other Guy has a rugged battle scar down one side of his face. Think Ross Poldark.

poldark-scar

(Okay, you can stop thinking Ross Poldark. Really. No, seriously, stop. Earth to Sparkler! Earth to Sparkler!)

*Yes, there are some zings in my book. But not three per page. And the thing that Marjorie most appreciates about her true love is not his biceps or his green eyes, but the way he–

AHA! You thought I was going to give something away, didn’t you? Not a chance.

What annoys you about the fiction you read (Christian or general)? What do you like best about it?

You’re the Cream in My Coffee is available in Sandpoint, Idaho, at Sandpoint Super Drug, Vanderford’s, the Bonner County History Museum Gift Shop, and the Corner Bookstore, and in Coeur d’Alene at the Sower Bookstore and the Well-Read Moose. Support the little guy! In many cases you can order online or by phone. If all else fails, of course, there’s always that big South American river.

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