Wednesday, September 9, 2015

That Book You Have to Write

There are books you write and tuck away. Practice books. Those with no current market appeal. Then there are the books you have to write...and...rewrite...until they are published.

LAST SUMMER IN EDEN, set in the mountain resort town Bethlehem, NH, in 1929, is the story I need to tell. The main character is Dorothy Brooks, 17, a young singer and member of the invisible class serving wealthy visitors. EDEN has flappers and bootlegging and theater and music and tender first love. And lots of pretty dresses. Has a decade ever had so many gorgeous clothes? Sequins, silks, beads, and embroidery--oh my.

Through her new friendship with a New York summer girl, Dorothy enjoys her foray into the resort's naughty fun. She wins a leading role in a romantic farce, where she must perform opposite the man who broke her heart. While fending him off, she falls for a new man--someone not quite "suitable," according to society's standards. She must make a choice, one that will define the rest of her life.

Bethlehem is beautiful and quirky, even now when most of the 30 hotels are gone. Eclectic cottages line the streets and there is an art deco theater, one of the last standing.  The air is still fresh and the views magnificent.

I used to walk the quiet streets on sweet summer nights, wishing I could get into a time machine and go back to...oh, 1929, maybe...  

Imagine standing in front of the Sinclair, a
four-story hotel that once filled a city block. Inside, a jazz band is wailing away. A flapper
and her companion 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.

Bethlehem's pivotal role in New England tourism was colored by two serious issues: anti-Semitism and bootlegging. It's an ugly truth that religious bigotry was rife in New England hotels and vacation areas--not just in Bethlehem. It was never overt, but ads that state "Christian clientele" and "select clientele"are code for "no Jews welcome." The '20s were the time of a great shift for tourism, as motor touring rose and the hotel vacation went out of style. The formerly unwanted visitors saved the town during the Depression and World War II, when many other resorts shuddered to a whimpering demise. Bethlehem became a Jewish resort.

The booming hotel trade and proximity to Canada also meant a whole lot of illicit drinking going on. The town librarian told me how her father brewed beer and distributed it in a truck with fabric flaps so they could ditch the load when necessary. Accounts of car chases and shootings filled the local weekly. One elderly resident told me was also illegal gambling in the hotels. But with the amount of money that flowed into town, the hotels were left alone. In one hotel nearby, the spectacular Mount Washington Hotel, you can have a drink in the former underground speakeasy, the Cave.

LAST SUMMER IN EDEN explores that fascinating pivotal moment when old and new met, just before the jarring crash of 1929 and the end of the glorious Jazz Age. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Cover Reveal and Giveaway for Pat Esden's fabulous NA novel!

As Pat's CP and friend, I'm proud to host this cover reveal and giveaway!

A HOLD ON ME (Dark Heart Book #1) by Pat Esden

Kensington Books
Release date: March 2016


She never wanted to return.
He wants nothing more than for her to leave.
But the fire between them is as strong as the past that haunts them.

Annie Freemont grew up on the road, immersed in the romance of rare things, cultivating an eye for artifacts and a spirit for bargaining. It’s a freewheeling life she loves and plans to continue—until her dad is diagnosed with dementia. His illness forces them to return to Moonhill, their ancestral home on the coast of Maine—and to the family they left behind fifteen years ago, after Annie’s mother died in a suspicious accident.

Once at Moonhill, Annie is shocked when her aunt separates her from her father. The next time Annie sees him, he’s a bizarre, violent shadow of his former self. Confused, she turns to an unlikely ally for support—Chase, the dangerously seductive young groundskeeper. With his dark good looks and powerful presence, Chase has an air of mystery that Annie is irresistibly drawn to. But she also senses that behind his penetrating eyes are secrets she can’t even begin to imagine. Secrets that hold the key to the past, to Annie’s own longings—and to all of their futures. Now, to unlock them, she’ll have to face her greatest fears and embrace her legacy…

Click here to add A HOLD ON ME on Goodreads:


PAT ESDEN would love to say she spent her childhood in intellectual pursuits. The truth is she was fonder of exploring abandoned houses and old cemeteries. When not out on her own adventures, she can be found in her northern Vermont home writing stories about brave, smart women and the men who capture their hearts. An antique-dealing florist by trade, she’s also a member of Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, and the League of Vermont Writers. Her short stories have appeared in a number of publications, including Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, the Mythopoeic Society’s Mythic Circle literary magazine, and George H. Scither’s anthology Cat Tales.


Check out the fantastic giveaway on Pat’s Facebook page.

TWITTER: @patesden

#NAparanormal  #Gothic

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Fun with Research: Leonardo Da Vinci and the Mona Lisa

To celebrate the release of Castle of Whispers, the first mystery in the Secrets of the Quilt series available here, I decided to post about a character in my book, the great Leonardo and his iconic painting, Mona Lisa. The picture above is not the one in the Louvre, it is an earlier version and appears to be of a younger woman.

Castle of Whispers features an antique quilt, with the oldest swatch rumored to have belonged to the Mona Lisa's dress. The first thing I researched was when exactly Leonardo painted the Mona Lisa we all know and love. In 1503, he was living in Florence and worked on the painting, so that became my date. During that time, he also worked on an ill-fated mural in the Palazzo Vecchio, so I included that incident in the story.

The story is set in a fictional village outside Florence, Ponte San Vincenti, or Saint Vincent's Gate, .symbolizing the area's wine-making heritage. My main character is a seamstress and her assignment is to make a wedding dress for Lisabetta Donati, a miserable bride-to-be. And...yes, the future Mona Lisa. How that happens I will save for readers.

Theories abound regarding the identity of the Mona Lisa, with the most popular right now being that she is Lisa del Giocondo, a merchant's wife. My question is: why then did Leonardo keep the portrait with him all the rest of his life? And now that earlier versions have been discovered, it only deepens the mystery. To the left is a crop of the painting above. Isn't she beautiful? I enjoyed exploring the mystery of her identity in my novel.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Fun with Research: Corsets

Since the title of my historical mystery series is Canvas & Corset, naturally the undergarment makes an appearance. In 1894, the book's time period, respectable women were required to wear one or be considered scandalously under-dressed.

I grew up in a time when bras and even panties were optional so I confess fascination with old-fashioned undergarments and relief that I don't have to wear them. It amazes me that women used to hike mountains wearing long dresses, petticoats, and corsets. Wow.

Anyway, I was recently writing a scene where one of my characters gets dressed. I had to look up the procedure, how someone tightened a corset themselves. After all, most women didn't have personal maids. I found videos demonstrating this and along the way, learned women are using corsets to define their waists.

Check out Orchard Corset--they sell beautiful undergarments and also have a number of devotees who swear by "waist-training" to reduce their midsections. Apparently wearing a corset is also good for your posture. No slouching with steel digging into your ribs!

The corset is also a metaphor for propriety--think about the word straitlaced. According to, the word originates from about 1450 and has two meanings: wearing tightly laced clothes and puritanical. Apparently high morals are verified by proper posture.

An interesting twist is that corsets have come to be regarded as sexy--the opposite of puritanical. Perhaps even more amazing is that women are voluntarily submitting to wearing them.