Antoinette's Christmas Mantel

A Parade in the Village

Issue #1
Antoinette Stockenberg
1

I began arranging Christmas villages on our mantel a few years ago, mostly because villages are harder to set up under a tree, and also to keep our Godzilla cats from stomping them. The fragile cardboard houses are from around 1930 pre-war Japan, and the tiny figures (tin Zinnfiguren) are mostly pre-war Germany. As satisfying as this ephemeral holiday art is to create, I found that it needed a story. I began my Christmas tale with this mantel tableau and have added characters and their stories to it every year for a decade since then. 

A Parade in the Village

Each Christmas when I begin to assemble my antique village, I run into the same old problem: the mantel can only fit a dozen or so houses, and over time I have collected more than that. So every year I have to leave well-loved houses and tin figures in their storage boxes, even though Christmas should be their season to come alive. For this mantel, I've assembled fourteen of my very favorite Japanese cardboard houses, along with the cast of tin characters that people them. No Hawthorne, Lemax, or Dept. 56 houses in this village -- just an assortment of sweet, dusty, slightly tattered cardboard structures that have somehow managed to survive three quarters of a century without getting crushed and tossed. Read and enjoy!


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About the author

USA Today bestselling novelist Antoinette Stockenberg grew up wanting to be a cowgirl and have her own horse (her great-grandfather bred horses for the carriage trade back in the old country), but the geography just didn't work out: there weren't many ranches in Chicago. Her other, more doable dream was to write books, and after stints as secretary, programmer, teacher, grad student, boatyard hand, office manager and magazine writer (in that order), she achieved that goal, writing over a dozen novels, several of them with paranormal elements. One of them is the RITA award-winning EMILY'S GHOST.

Stockenberg's books have been published in a dozen languages and are often set in quaint New England harbor towns, always with a dose of humor. She writes about complex family relationships and the fallout that old, unearthed secrets can have on them. Sometimes there's an old murder. Sometimes there's an old ghost. Sometimes once-lovers find one another after half a lifetime apart.

Her work has been compared to writers as diverse as Barbara Freethy, Nora Roberts, LaVyrle Spencer and Mary Stewart by critics and authors alike, and her novels have appeared on bestseller lists in USA Today as well as the national bookstore chains. Her website features sample chapters, numerous reviews, many photos, and an enchanting Christmas section. www.antoinettestockenberg.com

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Additional Information

Publisher
Antoinette Stockenberg
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Published on
Dec 19, 2016
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Pages
25
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Language
English
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Genres
Crafts & Hobbies / Decorating
Crafts & Hobbies / Holiday & Seasonal
Crafts & Hobbies / Miniatures
Fiction / Holidays
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Content Protection
This content is DRM free.
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Available on Android devices
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Note: This pictorial eBook contains large images and is designed to be viewed on an actual tablet, such as an Android or iPad with the Google App installed. Viewing it on a tablet will allow the images to be enlarged and explored.  I recommend that you download Season One first, which is free, to make sure that this type of eBook works well on your eReader.


As I called forth my antique village from its place of sleep to appear again this Christmas, I thought of the legend of Brigadoon. True, my village appears once a year, not once every hundred years; and, yes, the houses seem to change and move around a bit (not that they can move that far on a mantel). But the essence of the Brigadoon legend is the same: a whole little world, filled with characters with their own stories to tell, materializes as if by magic, casts its spell, and then -- poof! -- is gone. Every one of us, grownup and child alike, who has practiced this act of magic waits all year to do it again.
Almost everything you see in my mantel villages is from before World War II. The cardboard houses were all made in Japan, most in the early 1930's. The little flat figures, called "zinnfiguren," are from Germany. The street lamps are -- what else? -- Lionel. The bottlebrush trees are faded and rusty but carry their age, like everything else in this miniature world, with grace and panache. It's deeply satisfying to know that through most of the last century, other dreamers arranged these very same toys to tell their own stories. May it ever be so.

A River Runs Through it

For this season's Christmas village of vintage Japanese cardboard houses, I had but one desire: to capture the sparkling magic of ice and snow. For that, I think I blame Fred Astaire in Holiday Inn ... or maybe my east European heritage ... but definitely the taunting of my friends in Florida. To me, nothing sings Christmas more than falling snow and skaters on ice. I can't make snow actually fall from the ceiling onto my mantel's cardboard village (not for very long, anyway, without having to drag out the vacuum), so I've created the next best thing: a cold, cold Christmas with drifts of snow piled high against the banks of the river that flows through this year's vintage village. 


The river is frozen solid and the skating is the best it's ever been; almost everyone in town is either on the ice or watching from the sidelines. I've included some new characters in this Christmas chapter, and their stories will develop in the coming years. I should add that nearly all of the tiny tin Zinnfiguren in this year's village have been painted by me. (And I now have the crossed eyes to prove it; it's not easy painting expressions on faces that are an eighth of an inch small.) And so for all the other children besides me out there, here is this year's chapter: 

If you've been to my Home Page, then you know I've begun to convert my out-of-print novels into eBook format. It's no coincidence that in November I released KEEPSAKE, a novel of romantic suspense, for all the e-reader formats out there. Much of the novel takes place during the Christmas season, so I decided to recreate its opening scene in my mantel village this year.

Almost everything you see in my mantel villages is from before World War II. The cardboard houses were all made in Japan, most in the early 1930's. The little flat figures, called "zinnfiguren," are from Germany. The street lamps are -- what else? -- Lionel. The bottlebrush trees are faded and rusty but carry their age, like everything else in this miniature world, with grace and panache. It's deeply satisfying to know that through most of the last century, other dreamers arranged these very same toys to tell their own stories. May it ever be so.

NOTE: This pictorial eBook contains large images and is designed to be viewed on an actual tablet, such as an Android based tablet or an iPad with the Google Play App installed. Viewing it on a tablet will allow the images to be enlarged and explored.

The best way to view this pictorial eBook is in landscape mode with two columns displayed. In a two column display the images are quite small initially, but can be expanded to full screen size by tapping on them. I recommend that you download Season One first, which is free, to make sure that this type of eBook works well on your eReader.
For a few years now, I've been adding tin-figure characters with their tin-figure tales to my mantel village each Christmas. After the holiday -- sometimes way too long after it -- I carefully pack everything and everyone away. And the following year, my little village of antique cardboard houses reappears and the tales continue. Most of the stories are happy ones, because, after all, most people are happy. But as in life, sometimes a deep sadness occurs. Recently the village lost the original inspiration behind it: Ted Althof, a brilliant man who became a mentor not only to me in this hobby but to a host of people around the country and the world who are charmed by the little cardboard collectibles, mostly built in Japan before WWII. It was Ted who gathered what scarce information exists about them and created an irresistible website called "Papa Ted's Place."

Ted's website is filled with his thoughtful and wistful musings about childhood and Christmas, sprinkled among an astonishing array of vintage cardboard houses. You can spend whole days being enchanted in this online museum; I have a link in the introduction to this eBook that will take you there.. Papa Ted was Papa Christmas to many of us, and he is and will be dearly missed. My 2012 Christmas mantel is devoted to Ted, in fond memory. 

NOTE: This pictorial eBook contains large images and is designed to be viewed on an actual tablet, such as an Android based tablet or an iPad with the Google Play App installed. Viewing it on a tablet will allow the images to be enlarged and explored.

The best way to view this pictorial eBook is in landscape mode with two columns displayed. In a two column display the images are quite small initially, but can be expanded to full screen size by tapping on them. I recommend that you download Season One first, which is free, to make sure that this type of eBook works well on your eReader.

In the tradition of Upstairs, Downstairs and Downton Abbey, BY THE SEA is a four-book series that sweeps from the Gilded Age through the Gatsby Era's Roaring Twenties and then on to the Great Depression, culminating nearly a century later in Newport, Rhode Island, wealthy and alluring "City by the Sea." Set against a backdrop of mansions, the glorious America's Cup Yacht Races, and new money, the series traces the passions and adventures of three families from three different classes.
 

Book One: TESS. From the wild decadence of late nineteenth-century Newport comes the tale of Tess Moran, a beautiful Irish housemaid in one of the grand summer "cottages," who makes a dark bargain with a man of commanding wealth -- and falls in love in the bargain.

Book Two: AMANDA. Marrying American money to an English title is a tradition of its own; but Amanda Fain, a brash heiress with money to burn, has a fondness for Bolsheviks and bootleg liquor that makes her an unlikely match for the reluctant, ironic, and impoverished English aristocrat Geoffrey Seton, who has been ordered to America to find someone who can pay the bills for the family estate back home.

Book Three: LAURA. While the Great Depression grinds relentlessly on, Laura Andersson, a Midwestern farm girl with an improbable love of the sea, embarks on a bold adventure that promises riches but delivers passion, one that threatens all she holds dear.

Book Four: THE HEIRS is the dramatic conclusion to the four-book series BY THE SEA. Economic hard times are a distant memory in high-flying, recent-day Newport, home of the oldest and most prestigious trophy in the world, the Holy Grail of sport--the America's Cup. Here, the descendants of Tess, Amanda and Laura play out their destinies, their paths crossing in unforeseen ways: Mavis Moran, Neil Powers, his daughter Quinta, and America's Cup skipper Alan Seton all find themselves caught in a web of mystery, sabotage, and conflicting desires.

Reviews

"A quality novel [that] contains many of those little epiphanies, those moments of recognition. [Part 1, TESS,] is what makes Stockenberg's book stand out from the rash of novels on class conflicts between Irish servants and their Yankee masters."
--Providence Journal

"A riveting saga/mystery. Ms. Stockenberg is a master of intrigue and romance ... she expertly leads readers through nearly a century of drama in the elegant, fascinating, and thrilling world of yacht racing [culminating in] a compelling mystery. This novel will provide smooth sailing for summer reading."
—Rave Reviews

 SPECIAL PEARL HARBOR 75TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION WITH ALL-NEW BONUS MATERIAL

From USA Today bestselling author Alan Simon

‘Twas the week of Christmas,

Nineteen forty-one;

The season’s joy overshadowed

by the war just begun.

 The Great Depression years finally behind them, the entire Coleman family of Pittsburgh has been looking forward to this Christmas for almost the entire year. For the first time in more than a decade, Gerald and Irene Coleman have tucked away enough extra money to make up for all the lean years of disappointingly modest Christmas gifts for their children. But December 7, 1941 has changed everything, and for the past two weeks the entire family has followed with despair the Japanese advances all over the Pacific as well as America finally being dragged into the two-year old European war. Though a few glimmers of hope can be found amidst the ominous war news, both parents fear not only for the country’s fate as this new war begins but also, more personally, for the fate of their sons who will likely soon be joining the fighting in one war theater or another.

Still, despite the sense of dread hanging over almost every aspect of the family’s daily affairs, Irene Coleman is determined that if indeed this will be the last Christmas that the family spends together––at least until after the war, or perhaps even forever––then she will do everything in her power to make Christmas, 1941, the first Christmas of the war, a happy one for her children and her entire family.

Come spend the week leading up to Christmas, 1941 with the Coleman family including:

Jonathan––The eldest son at nineteen, Jonathan fatalistically realizes the inevitability of his military days arriving very soon, whether he succumbs to the pressure to enlist or if he waits until he is drafted. But Jonathan has other problems on his mind as well.

His long-time girlfriend Francine Donner, whom only days from now he plans to ask to marry him, broke a date with him this past weekend to go out with one of Jonathan’s best friends from high school (and one of her own former boyfriends), because he is headed off to boot camp right after Christmas. Jonathan has ominous feelings about this turn of events...and he’s right.

Charlene––The third child in the family and the oldest daughter, Charlene has just become secretly engaged at the age of sixteen to her boyfriend who is soon headed to boot camp. She shares the news of her engagement with her cousin Lorraine Walker, but Lorraine quickly breaks her promise to keep the news secret. When Irene Coleman learns of her daughter’s engagement and the circumstances surrounding it, she has yet another problem to confront.

Irene––In many ways, the backbone of the family...the classical 1930s-1940s matriarch who runs her household her way, no questions asked. Like her husband, Irene is mortified by the ominous war news and does her best to occupy the hours of her day with an endless string of tasks and chores, trying to keep her mind off her own fears for her sons’ safety.

…and the others.

 

December 20-26, 1941:

The First Christmas of the War

He was her childhood knight in shining armor ... but she wasn't a fairytale princess.

Kendall Barclay III was a skinny, nerdy kid when he single-handedly took on a gang of bullies assaulting Laura Shore, a thirteen-year-old girl from the town's most notorious family. The childhood trauma became one more reason for Laura to flee the small Cape Cod town for the opposite coast and make a name for herself there. But now her tyrannical father is dead, her murderous uncle as well, and her beloved sister Corinne wants Laura and their black-sheep brother to come home and restore Shore Gardens, the family nursery fallen to rack and ruin, back to its former charm.

Reluctantly, they promise Corinne one month. One month, for Laura to face down past memories which are anything but fond and to come to terms with the wild range of feelings she has for the man who is no longer either skinny or nerdy. It's a daunting assignment -- made more so when a shocking discovery is made on the nursery grounds. Have knights in shining armor gone out of fashion? Laura will soon find out.

Editorial Reviews

"A MONTH AT THE SHORE is a most enjoyable contemporary romance. The book illuminates the power of childhood experiences in shaping lives. Rooted as it is in their past, the attraction that sparks to life between Laura and Ken makes eminent sense ... Ken is the perfect hero, clearly a gem. Stockenberg has created an interesting cast of characters, provides a most satisfactory romance, and integrates the suspense element seamlessly into her story. This is a perfect book for a summer day -- or any other day, for that matter."
--The Romance Reader

"The writing and emotional pull [is] finely drawn out .... The plot has just the right amount of intrigue, suspense, and a wonderfully sensual romance as the inspired hero does his best to become [the heroine's] knight in shining armor. The villain is a surprise twist to the mystery of the murder. Set in a wonderful local ... you will truly enjoy A MONTH AT THE SHORE."
--Contemporary Romance Writers Reviews

"An addictive novel that draws the reader in from the very first page. The characters are extremely sympathetic and believable .... An all-around excellent read, A MONTH AT THE SHORE is enthralling. To be placed on your must-read pile immediately. Don't miss out on this captivating story of love, family, and trust."
--Romance Reviews Today

"Antoinette Stockenberg has a reputation for creating stories of small-town romance tinged with suspense, and this is the case with this superb book as well. A rich tapestry of complex emotions, the story is guaranteed to hold the reader immersed and interested. Fulfilling.
--The Road to Romance

"A very intriguing book that does a wonderful job of capturing the very essence of small town life -- the good and the bad. An intriguing mystery and a beautiful romance makes this a perfect book to curl up with."
--Romance Junkies

"This is a must read. It will keep you guessing throughout and you will be shocked to find out just who is the murderer. Don't pass this one up!"
--About Romance Fiction

"A savvy, sexy novel with twists and turns. The dialogue is natural and witty, and the characters jump off the page. If you like a good mystery, with murder, revenge, and tantalizing sexual play, you'll enjoy this book."
--The Best Reviews

"Dark secrets never seem to remain buried, and that's certainly the case in this complex tale. As always, talented Antoinette Stockenberg delivers interesting characters whose lives are never simple."
--RT Reviews
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