Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Canvas & Corset Mystery Series

In 1894, Camden, Maine, is a quiet coastal retreat favored by rusticators and artists. Spinster Emily Driscoll faces another tedious summer—until she meets handsome Boston artist Charles Bartlett. They’ve barely exchanged flirtatious words when Emily’s best friend Abigail arrives with devastating news. Her father, Captain Coatsworth, owner of lime quarries and sailing ships, has been shot dead on a cliff overlook.

When the police decide the murder was by persons unknown, Abigail and Emily aren’t satisfied. For one thing, Caroline Coatsworth, the wife believed to have died at Abigail’s birth, has reappeared and laid claim to the inheritance. They also suspect Jonas Estabrook, the captain’s greedy business partner. He opposed costly expansion plans and is now pressing Abigail to marry him. When an employee with information for Abigail dies in a quarry explosion before their meeting, it becomes clear that she’s in danger. Fearing for her, Emily and Charles join together to solve the murder and answer the burning question: is that lovely, seductive woman really Caroline Coatsworth? Along the way, love and a new career as an artist blossom for Emily.

Death on the Cliffs is the first in the Canvas & Corset Mystery Series. In the late 1800s, half of American professional artists were women. During this period of intense creative expression, artist colonies thrived in cultural centers and near magnificent natural areas. Emily and Charles travel to a new locale in each book, enjoying the lavish bohemian lifestyle shared by artists and their wealthy patrons. Florence, Paris, London, the American West, and Bar Harbor, Maine, are possible settings. Emily’s growth as a painter provides a connecting thread through the series as do relationships with family and friends. Social issues of the day add texture.

Each Canvas & Corset mystery is an excursion to a time of unparalleled luxury, leisure, and romance. The second book, Death at the Villa, is set in Florence, Italy.

Every Paradise has a Snake

For 25 years, I lived in an old mountain resort town, Bethlehem, NH. This place used to have over 30 hotels, golf courses, swimming pools, recreation venues and a jammin' social scene.

I sometimes walked the quiet streets at night, picturing myself back in the heyday--say 1929.

I'm standing in front of the Sinclair, a giant 4-story hotel that filled a city block. Inside, a jazz band is wailing away. A flapper and a lounge lizard slip out to the wide porch for a cigarette and a swig from a flask. They stand close together by the rail, shoulders touching as they flirt and laugh.

Below them, late night walkers throng the sidewalks. A surprisingly diverse crowd. Flashy, well-dressed Cubans. Proper Episcopalians in black tie and evening dress. Clusters of young men and women cruising the street, vying to see and be seen. And, strolling quietly, careful not to attract attention, an Orthodox Jewish family.

In the 1920s, this fashionable resort began a shift to a new, non-Christian clientele. Eventually Bethlehem became a Jewish resort, which in fact saved the town during the Depression and World War II. But it is an ugly secret that anti-Semitism was rife in New England hotels and vacation areas--not just in Bethlehem. It was never overt, but old ads that state "Christian clientele" and "select clientele" are code for "no Jews welcome."

I remember the first time I realized what I was seeing in that quaint old tourist rag. My paradise had a serious and despicable flaw. I also had the benefit of knowing the outcome for Bethlehem. That moment when old and new met, at the height of the Jazz Age, just before the jarring 1929 crash, fascinated me.

And so Snakes in Paradise was born. In short:

In 1929, Bethlehem, NH, is a resort town hopping with glamorous visitors, jazz bands and social events. Fifteen-year-old native Dorothy Brooks plans to spend the summer earning money for a dress and having fun with her new pal, New Yorker Lexie Winslow. But instead she has to contend with cruelty toward a Jewish friend and a family member in trouble with the law. Bootlegging and anti-Semitism--two evils poisoning this lovely mountain paradise. Will they spoil the best summer of Dorothy’s life?

This book is under review by a publisher as well as agents!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Bethlehem, a published non-fiction history

In 2000, my first book was published, a nonfiction pictorial history of the White Mountains resort, Bethlehem, NH. 100 years ago, Bethlehem had 30 hotels and thousands of summer visitors who enjoyed social events and outdoor recreation. Remaining today are dozens of unique, architecturally interesting buildings and a funky, eclectic culture.

Note: one copy is available on Amazon for $310! LOL.