Piano whispers from an unknown history

Ghost-like memories of piano playing — years of scales, discords and sweet harmony from ivory keys — are hidden somewhere in the history of this old Chickering Victorian Square Grand Piano. No longer are visitors encouraged to play a tune on it. With its wires strung horizontally from left to right, rather than from front to back, its soft, subdued tones (listen) would be unlike what is produced by today’s pianos. But this one sits unused, silently overseeing the comings and goings of patrons in the lobby of a unique log building in BC’s south Cariboo.

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Jonas Chickering was the first piano builder in the United States, established in 1823. The Chickering brothers were known for building some of the finest pianos in history. This piano bears the Chickering name in gold lettering, but not in a style of text born by any other Chickering antique pianos that my research has unearthed, so I can’t vouch for its authenticity.

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(Click photo for larger view)

At one time a faded sign on it proclaimed, “circa 1883″, (or maybe it was 1853) but the sign has been gone for a while. Square grands existed from 1823 until the end of the 1880s. They began to lose favour when uprights became more popular, and were pretty well obsolete by 1900.

In the mid-1800s this one probably would have sold for between $800-$1200, the cost of a small house. One restoration site I visited offered fully restored Chickering square grands at prices from $30,000 to $50,000. I can’t afford one. Drat!

This particular piano sits against a wall, surrounded and topped by an accumulation of other collectibles from assorted eras. I wish I could rescue it! I’m not a great pianist or even a collector of antiques, but I want to clear everything off it, gently dust the keys and lower its lid against further insult.

I want to hear my daughters play it, or perhaps our church pianist — someone who understands all the emotion a piano can express and would appreciate its uniqueness and its place in musical history.

But I left it untouched… left with only photographs, and a longing to know its story.

Do you own a piano or another musical instrument? If it could talk, what story would it tell of its time in your household?

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“Praise the LORD!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his excellent greatness!
Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath
praise the LORD!

Praise the LORD!” 

[Psalm 150:1-6]

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Cover Reveal for FOREIGN EXCHANGE by Denise Jaden (plus a Special Giveaway)

 

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Author Denise Jaden’s next book, FOREIGN EXCHANGE, is due to be released this October. Denise is here today to let us in on the cover reveal, and she also has a special giveaway for us, involving Stephanie Perkins’ ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER. Read on to find out more. 

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First, here are a few of Denise’s thoughts on Foreign Exchange and its cover…

 

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I’m so incredibly excited to share my cover of Foreign Exchange with you! This book holds a very special place in my heart. I wrote it during a very difficult year of my life, and the characters and their stories were a real bright spot for me.

Because this book is so important to me, I’m giving away something VERY important to me to go along with this cover reveal. I was fortunate enough to receive an early copy of the highly-anticipated Isla and the Happily Ever After by one of my all-time favorite authors, Stephanie Perkins. ISLA and Foreign Exchange are both romances with swoon-worthy boys, and they’re both set partially in Europe. So I want one lucky person to receive my advanced copy of ISLA to get you excited for Foreign Exchange!

Read on, check out my cover, and read the first chapter of Foreign Exchange below. It’ll all help you in earning extra entries to win my copy of Isla and the Happily Ever After!

And here is the beautiful cover…

 

Jamie Monroe has always played it safe. That is, until her live-for-the-moment best friend, Tristan, jets off to Italy on a student exchange program. Left alone with her part-time mother and her disabled brother, Jamie discovers that she is quite capable of taking her own risks, starting with her best friend’s hotter-than-hot older brother, Sawyer. Sawyer and Tristan have been neighbors for years, but as Jamie grows closer to the family she thought she knew, she discovers some pretty big secrets.

As she sinks deeper into their web of pretense, she suspects that her best friend may not be on a safe exchange program at all. Jamie sets off to Europe on a class trip with plans to meet up with Tristan, but when Tristan stops all communication, suddenly no one seems trustworthy, least of all the one person she was starting to trust—Sawyer. 

 “Foreign Exchange is a fresh contemporary YA that will keep readers compulsively turning pages until the very end. Combining international intrigue with a steamy forbidden romance makes for a can’t miss read.”
 - Eileen Cook  Author of Year of Mistaken Discoveries. 
“A pitch perfect voice and delicious chemistry kept me turning those pages!”
- Tara Kelly, author of Amplified and Encore
“Foreign Exchange is heart pounding and suspenseful…the teenage dream of escaping the boredom of suburbia by travelling Europe and spending quality time with a hot guy shifts into a dangerous nightmare.”
 - D.R. Graham, author of Rank and the upcoming Noir et Bleu MC series.
 

One of the entries in the Rafflecopter below will ask you a question from the above chapter!

This contest is open internationally!
Don’t forget…this copy of ISLA could be yours…

a Rafflecopter giveaway

* Note – If you cannot access the Rafflecopter Widget through this blog, access it HERE.

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Weekend Scenes

Yes, it’s true … I’ve been gallivanting and I don’t have a ‘real’ post ready for you, so all you’re going to get today are some of the scenes from my weekend, and then I’m suggesting you come back tomorrow to read about Denise Jaden‘s soon-to-be-released fourth book, Foreign Exchange, and get in on its cover reveal.

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Now, about my weekend sojourn…

We took the trailer into the south Cariboo on Friday, and spent the weekend at Loon Lake helping friends celebrate their 25th anniversary. While we left the coast in the rain, we soon made it past the dark clouds and into glorious sunshine. It was an awesome drive. I hope you enjoy the scenery, and will remember to drop in here again tomorrow. :)

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So Many Books, So Little Time!

I’m sharing an article from the archives today, updated from its original posting in 2008.

But FIRST… I have to share my daughter’s exciting news! Her first publishing contract! Head over to Shari’s blog and read about it, then come back here to continue. :)

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“So many books, so little time.”  If you Google this phrase you’ll come up with about 563,000,000 results — everything from a link to the quote attributed to Frank Zappa, to Sara Nelson’s book documenting a year of her passionate reading, assorted articles on the subject, even a forum of the same name on the Indigo/Chapters site debating about what ten books you might take if you knew you were going to be stranded on a desert island.

Summer Reading GraphicFor me, the words stand alone, not as a title for anything. They emerge from my mouth sounding more like a moan, even a wail, expressing my frustration that there are more books that I want to read than there are hours left in my life. (And I’m planning for a lot of those!)

Selecting what to read — what’s worthy of my time — is always a dilemma. So I could relate to a  blog entry written some years ago by literary agent Jessica Faust.  Here’s an excerpt:

“I somehow had the impression that as a recent college grad, or just an intelligent woman, I should be reading more intelligent books (whatever that means). In other words, I should be catching up on the classics I missed out on as a journalism major or reading only books that incited great philosophical discussions… It took me a long time to accept and advertise the fact that I was a commercial fiction girl… I think all readers evolve and grow over time and eventually find their niche. I hear often from those who read only fantasy as young people and now have grown to read different kinds of fiction, and I hear from others who still can’t stomach commercial fiction but love nothing more than to cuddle into a long classic. Some typically enjoy longer literary works, but when life is tough or getting them down, they will pull out a favorite romance or thriller. What we read and when we’re reading it can say a lot about who we are in that time of our life, just like the music we listen to and the movies we watch.”

I wonder what my reading choices say about me. I’m definitely not scholarly. Today’s post is a re-run from my archives, but at the time it was first posted, my virtual coffee table held the following: Fiction — “Leota’s Garden” by Francine Rivers, “Carlyle’s House” by Virginia Woolf, “Light on Snow” by Anita Shreve and Kirsty Scott’s “Between You & Me”. Non-fiction: Julia Cameron’s “The Sound of Paper”, Des Kennedy’s “Crazy About Gardening”, and John Fischer’s “Be Thou My Vision” (daily meditation).

Reading vies with writing for possession of my time. No matter how much I spend on either, it’s never enough! I need to live to be 120!

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QUESTIONS FOR YOU:

  • Are your reading choices eclectic, or do you have favourite authors or themes that govern what you read?
  • Are your summer book choices lighter reading than what you choose during the rest of the year?
  • What’s on your coffee table (or bedside table) right now?
  • What’s on your summer reading list … anything you’d like to recommend?

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The Appeal of a Writer’s Garden

Did you ever read The Secret Garden — the 1911 novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett? I read it at a time when I was too young to care about its themes and symbols. The author’s interest in Christian Science and New Thought were beyond me, and by the time I later acquired the movie on DVD (the 1993 version), the childish appeal of the story and its magic was well embedded and I didn’t care what obscure meaning it might have. 


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I sometimes wonder if it contributed to my interest in gardening. I’m not a great gardener, but my homes from childhood until the present have always included patches of soil in which plants put forth blossoms and seeds year after year. Every spring I await the bursting of swollen buds, and often plant something new “just to see if it will grow”. Unfortunately I don’t nurture things very well, and sometimes they don’t grow!

It’s not the growing that fascinates me as much as the potential. Bare branches and seed pods that lie dormant and suddenly decide to produce green sprouts, leaves and flowers. Perhaps it’s reminiscent of the mystery invisible behind a locked garden gate, and secrets within.

Secret Garden

If you didn’t know my back yard, the cedar arch in the back corner covered by climbing hydrangea might seem like the gateway to a secret garden. It’s not. It simply marks the transition between our rather mossy back lawn and an unkempt bit of forest that leads to our marsh. Any mystery or magic exists only in one’s mind.

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I used to like sitting down there on the little bench my hubby made for me. It was a private sanctuary, perfect for thinking, plotting or just listening to the birds. Now that I know there’s a bear and her cub wandering nearby this spring, I’m less inclined to venture down there by myself, but I miss sitting quietly in those shadows.

Sunday afternoon I enjoyed wandering through a friend’s garden, seeing her lush plantings of flowers and shrubs. I came home thinking about what gardens mean to us as writers. The fact that my friend is also a writer reinforces my belief that whether we’re growing vegetables and fruits to nourish our bodies, or designing colourful flowerbeds to nourish our spirits, in some way the process parallels our desire to create via storytelling.

Planning the beds, preparing the ground, nestling each plant or seed in its appropriate spot, watering and fertilizing, watching it develop, and digging it out when it ends up not fitting that location — it strikes me there’s a writing analogy coming. It might take a stretch of imagination, but I’m sure there’s a semblance of one. Don’t dash my hope. I told you I’m not a great gardener! :)

If you’re a writer, do you like to garden… design special places or plant practical beds? Oh, and don’t forget my initial question: have you read (or watched) “The Secret Garden”? What did you think of it?

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Seeking summertime serenity?

Summer’s eve!

Anticipating deep breaths

of rose and peony infused air

Long, languid days

Luscious berries

blossoms and bees

Deck time

and solitude

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Whether skies turn out to be cloudless or cloud filled, the whole idea of SUMMER conveys an element of relaxation, a less scheduled pace and some vacation time. We covet getting away from the rat race, with stolen moments of serenity in holiday destinations or secluded garden sanctuaries.

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Is it realistic? Probably not. Vacations aren’t for everyone. There are no holiday weeks set aside in some calendars, no opportunities to ‘get away’. But most people still dream of summertime for simpler stress-free days, and time away from the mundane.

So how can we achieve that and make summer the special time we envision? Perhaps it means getting up a half hour earlier so we can sip morning coffee on the deck or porch steps, and savour the silence before the day’s routines begin. Maybe we can plan ahead… shuffle schedules to allow for an hour or two enjoying the flowers on a walk through one of the city’s parks. Or make a picnic supper, spread a quilt on the lawn and enjoy a quiet hour in the backyard.

If we’re among the ‘house-bound’ population, we could spread out that quilt on the couch or floor, order in some deli potato salad and cold chicken, and make up lemonade for a homestyle picnic, perhaps invite a neighbour in to join us for lunch or later for an old-fashioned hour of tea, cookies and conversation. Or if company doesn’t appeal, simply set aside an hour of uninterrupted reading with tea and the current book of choice. If we’re writers, that might be an uninterrupted hour of writing! We can put on a nature-themed CD for seaside background ambience, close our eyes and savour the serenity as we develop a plot.

The point is to be intentional about creating memorable times. We’re at summer’s eve. Get ready to leap in with abandon and find your unique moments of joy.

What are you most looking forward to doing this summer?

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Cruising takes on a different meaning…

A little reprieve from cruise photos… sort of. Yesterday it was cruising of a different kind as hubby, son and grandson drove our two vintage vehicles to a large car show. ‘Old Car Sunday in the Park‘ is a Father’s Day tradition in our area and is “one of the largest shows of vintage, antique & collector vehicles on display in Western Canada.” Last year more than 1,340 vehicles participated. This year there were only 534 due to the threat of bad weather (which never materialized), but it was as much fun as ever! The organizers’ motto is, “If you love it, bring it!”  and it’s evident that a lot of people love their old cars, whether rusted or restored, classic or custom.

Our Vintage Vehicles

Our guys don’t claim to be ‘collectors’ — both the 1930 Ford Model A and the 1946 Willys CJ2A Jeep were acquired quite unexpectedly, thanks to the kindness and generosity of family and friends. But they both bring much delight to our men who appreciate their enduring heritage and enjoy tinkering with them.

What’s the appeal of old things? Why do we like old vehicles, vintage clothing, and the ancient history found in books, antiques and museums? I think it has a lot to do with the nostalgia created by these reminders of the lifestyle from a bygone era. We like to believe it was a simpler time, a time when quality and old-fashioned principles were held in higher esteem, and when a hard day’s work created calluses rather than stress. I doubt our forefathers would agree with that analysis, but what else is it? Why do Currier & Ives Christmas card collections remain so popular through the decades? Why do historical and Amish fiction continue to dominate book sales? Why do groups hold such successful car shows every year? I don’t have an answer. Do you?

What’s your opinion? Do you like owning any special reminders of the past?  What do they mean to you?

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