Saturday, July 28, 2007

One of the Good Days

Anne White (Guest Blogger)

Book talks can be murder.

I’m not trying out a title for a new mystery here – although this might make a good one – I’m telling it like it is. The accepted thinking in the book world seems to be that, if you want your mystery series to meet with even a modicum of success, you’ve got to promote it, hit the pavement and talk it up. And with these efforts come a range of experiences, some rewarding and some downright humiliating.

With four Lake George mysteries under my belt, I’ve experienced both kinds.

In my efforts to promote, I’ve gone the book talk route, given the speeches and readings and sometimes attracted a respectable number of people who responded in positive ways. But I’ve also conducted signings in bookstores, hotel lobbies and beautiful lakeside parks where people galloped past, eyes averted, as if fearing I would offer pornographic materials to their children.

I’m experienced enough to know that talking about my books to a group of women at Wiawaka Holiday House on upstate New York’s fabulously beautiful Lake George, the setting for my series, will be one of the good times. Wiawaka, which in Abenaki means the Great Spirit in Women was founded early in the last century by Mary Wiltse Fuller, daughter of a Troy, NY industrialist, who used her position and wealth to help immigrant women working in the mills in Troy and Cohoes escape the city for an affordable one-week vacation. Located on the southeastern shore of Lake George, Wiawaka with its spacious grounds and neat frame houses is believed to be the last surviving example of a women’s retreat from the progressive era still in use for its original purpose.

Director Wendy Littlefield has invited me a number of times for programs with different groups and I’ve taken advantage of several of its beautiful settings – a screened porch on one of the lakeside cottages, a cozy, old-fashioned living room and the wide wrap-around porch of its main building, Fuller House. When I spoke there recently on a perfect summer day, I stood on the Fuller House steps, addressing several dozen women seated in rows of folding chairs on the lawn, looking past the grassy compound ringed by the other buildings in the summer colony to the lake beyond.

My Lake George mysteries have many connections with Wiawaka, and I was eager to point them out. Georgia O’Keeffe, a former guest and occasional visitor here, provided me with the idea for the first one, An Affinity For Murder. O’Keeffe spent 15 summers with legendary photographer Alfred Stieglitz at his family’s summer home near Lake George Village a short distance across the lake. There O’Keeffe painted some of her best-loved works, the giant flowers she made large enough to fill an entire canvas, paintings my mystery writer’s brain thought well suited to forgery.

Not far off shore here are the sunken remnants of the bateaux, the French and Indian War gunboats, featured in Beneath The Surface, the second book in the series. Talking about the bateaux gave me a chance to recount my misadventures at a local dive shop where I’d gone a few years ago to inquire about these priceless artifacts.

“You can see them yourself,” the buff eighteen-year-old clerk told me. “There’s one space left in the first scuba diving class of the year and it starts next week. We’re not even waiting for the ice to go out of the lake.”

Caught up in his enthusiasm, I almost signed up before I came to my senses and turned the incident into a light-hearted piece for Mystery Scene Magazine instead.

The other books in my Lake George mystery series, Best Laid Plans (2006) and this year’s Secrets Dark and Deep, take place a short distance away in my fictional town of Emerald Point. The sights and sounds there mimic those I’m enjoying today – glimpses through the trees of slate blue water sparkling in the sunlight, the deep blast of a lake steamer as it passes close to shore, the great arch of azure summer sky dotted with puffy white clouds, the archipelago of islands, large and small, strung along the lake’s thirty-two mile length.

The lake’s history permeates everything, from its discovery in 1646 by St. Isaac Jogues through the bloody French and Indian War battles, the exploits of men like Robert Rogers and his Rangers, the forts, both French and English on opposite ends of the lake, the nineteenth century growth of the hotels and summer resorts, and now the present-day tourism and environmental concerns. On every visit here I’m caught up in my enthusiasm for the lake and its stories, and feel the spirit of renewal Wiawaka promises.

Anne White's Secrets Dark and Deep this year's addition to her Lake George Mystery Series, follows An Affinity For Murder (a 2002 Malice Domestic Best First Nominee), Beneath The Surface (2005) and Best Laid Plans (2006). She's a retired high school librarian, married, and has six children. Learn more on her website at

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