Friday, 24 May 2013

Souvenir de la Dentist's Maison

(My apologies to my mother for fracturing the name of one of her favorite old garden roses, Souvenir de la Malmaison, but she would understand the sacrifices one must make for a snappy headline.)

Today's story begins when I knew my stay on the Island would be drawing to an end.  I did what any red-blooded lover of gorgeous antique furniture would do: I managed to convince Chumley that now was the time to pillage the spoils of Stamford society and buy their castoffs for cheap from Bateman's Auctions.  As I gingerly learned to bid on pre-approved merchandise we viewed and decided would be useful in a bigger American home, I spied the most wonderful satinwood artcase grand piano.  I bit my lower lip bloody until the urge to bid passed.  A grand piano had been on my wish list since I'd been gifted my grand piano pencil sharpener as a child, complete with lid rest.  Perhaps as many wood shavings were falling out of this 1870's model, but it was a becoming, blonde looker.  Worse yet, it sold for only £150.  I wanted to cry, but a beautiful flame mahogany dining table cushioned the blow.

We were in the States when a whim forced me to look at an email auction newsletter, made ever-so-handy with a search feature that could scour auction houses for elderly grand pianos in need of good homes.  I found one, naively bid live online at 4:30 a.m. CST, and became the proud owner of an 1844 Collard & Collard parlour grand, a slight size up from a baby grand intended for home enjoyment.  It sat in the front parlour of a dentist in Grantham.  Hammer price: £65 plus VAT.  All in, about $120.



I pinched myself, not feeling this kind of joy since I discovered peaches would grow in our English back garden.  All was hunky dory for about a week, until I discovered a little something called CITES... the Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species.

Episode two of the grand saga to come...

Thursday, 18 April 2013

I'm back in Illinois, but I can't seem to escape the Brits!

(Well, marrying one doesn't help.) So, let me catch my gentle readers up in thirty seconds: Chumley and I moved back to Illinois, he now craves proper bacon, still taunts me with Marmite, and still tends a mean garden, albeit in a slightly sunnier climate.  We have some beautiful antique furniture, courtesy of the Island, and things are still mad as a box of frogs.  Case in point: I wrote a book for fun years ago, and stashed it in a drawer until this January until I hit "send" on a whim.  As of last Tuesday, my fun, little chicklit book, "Under Your Charms" has advanced to the last five romance novels standing in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel competition.  It's all a bit overwhelming.  For half a day after I learned my name was on the short list, I forgot how to work the phone.  So if you're into rompy rom-coms with Wonderbras and some Brits thrown in for good measure, here's the gist:  

Eleanor Weltman, a romantically gormless but gutsy reporter for the D.C. Current, hasn't had a date in the last decade. That's also the last time she added to her potato shoe collection. Her penchant for storing well-gnawed writing utensils in her hair certainly isn't adding to her allure, either. It's not like she lets it get to her - she's been far too busy writing her way up the newsroom ladder after paying her dues at Plumber's Monthly. Any thoughts of romance have been expertly edited out of her consciousness. But now her laser-beam focus on a professional life is heating up her after-hours. Her crotchety editor has issued Eleanor a non-negotiable writing assignment: cruise around D.C., spot handsome but unsuspecting men, and get paid to send catchy anonymous love notes to the objects of her affection (and 100,000 of their closest friends) in a new dating column, Under Your Charms. Getting the story and a life in the process, she and her best friend/dating coach Celia transform Eleanor from Saturday Night Frozen Yogurt Binger into Shameless Flirter, Tango Temptress and Brazen Beach Blonde out of professional necessity. Of course, a few speedbumps are to be expected, but newfound confidence opens her eyes to a plethora of eligible men. Her famous mother, new age self-help writer Jessica Weltman, would be ecstatic if she only knew. Personal information fed to famous meddling mothers is best kept to a minimum. One particular gentleman strikes her fancy in the form of a charming British diplomat who knows his florist and Jane Austen references well. A whirlwind of romance and royal treatment has Eleanor ready to trade in her undercover minimart exposes for giving orders to the underbutler. Will his charms prove beguiling or make Eleanor wish she'd never drunk the Earl Grey?

Disclaimer in gigawatts of blinking lights: the only thing my charming British diplomat character and charming British husband have in common is hair colour and pronunciation of the word "mobile."  That's it.  No marriages were harmed in the writing of this novel.

If you want to download an excerpt for free and send your good karma and reviews my way, here's the link:http://www.amazon.com/Under-Your-Charms-Entry-ebook/dp/B00B9N85RC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1366299078&sr=8-1&keywords=claire+craig+evans

If I make it to the next stage on May 21, the public votes on who wins all the marbles.  I'll be sure to keep you posted.