remembering barbara mertz



The “Writing Den”–Barbara’s Study


In response to a great suggestion from one of Barbara’s “dear readers,” we’ve been inspired to post a little something about the room where she did her writing, in her beloved “MPM Manor” out in the Maryland countryside.  She bought the old farmhouse from an interior designer, so it had already been decked out and updated in style.  The study area already had a beautifully draped fabric hung from the ceiling; when it came time to replace that, MPM decided to have fun and “go golden.”  Her house contained large collections of all kinds of books — mysteries, science fiction, historical novels, children’s books, classic literature (Jane Austen!), melodramatic old accounts of desert romances, you name it.  In the study she kept a collection of her own books — one copy of each edition, including those in many different languages and the audio book versions.  She also surrounded herself with books and journals pertaining to her central interests — Ancient Egypt, and the histories surrounding the exploration and development of archaeology there ….




Also bedecking her walls and shelves were many humorous notes and pictures from her writer friends, many of whom shared her often quirky sense of humor.  Take, for example, the “Literary Cupcake” prize that she received from a mysterious group — for some serious accomplishments (tooth-chipping, anyone?):


It was less than a month before she died when Barbara put down her pen, announcing that she would not be writing any more.  This caught many of us by surprise, much as we’d known the day would have to come.  But despite many attempts to “retire” in previous years, she’d always found herself bored, restless, at sea when she stopped writing – and eventually relented to write (usually) “one more” Amelia.  As it had been since she was a very young woman, writing remained her solace, the goal toward which so many of her days were bent.  Through even the worst of days, it was the imaginative lens through which she loved to think about the world — and the magic that she sought to share with her readers.  What a gift.

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Vanish with the Rose?… Summer in MPM Gardens

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“But the sun was warm on her bare head and she read on, increasingly entranced … by the sheer romance of the old roses.  Surely no other flower had accumulated such a rich and ancient tradition….

Some of them could trace their histories back, not for centuries but for millenia.  The night before she had read of the wreaths found in Egyptian tombs.  Those withered blossoms had been plucked four thousand years ago, but when they were put into warm water the buds opened rose-pink petals.  Someone had even identified the variety: Rosa richardii, called “the Rose of the Tombs” or the “Holy Rose of Abyssinia” because it had flourished in the Christian cemeteries of Ethiopia for countless ages. … The Persian musk rose, cultivated for its perfume, had arrived in England in 1513; Shakespeare mentioned it in A MIdsummer Night’s Dream, and it was a favorite scent of Elizabethan dandies — because, one authority had suggested, it was reminiscent of the smell of the rutting musk stag.  One could well believe that, knowing the Elizabethans….”  Vanish with the Rose (Barbara Michaels)

Hmmm….. hadn’t really thought of rutting musk stags and roses together before!  We thought we’d send along some pictures of the MPM Gardens in summer, before everything “vanishes with the roses”….

Barbara didn’t seem able to do anything half-way.  Her files are full of research for each book, and often the detailed background research led to hobbies into which she threw herself with accustomed passion.  In Vanish with the Rose we hear hints of the avid gardener she became (always with stalwart help). And here are some glimpses of the results….

(and these really are “Summer” in MPM Gardens: photos by Summer Kelley Photography!)

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MPM: Mertz, Peters, Michaels

MPM Manor, Inc. was started by Barbara Mertz, to help in running her business as a writer.  Taking the first letters of Mertz, Peters, and Michaels, it draws on her alternate identities as the writers Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels.  The “manor” is an indirect reference to her beloved home in rural Maryland.  There she wrote, entertained, and developed her many hobbies, including gardening.  We’ll be trying to share some of the delight she took from all of this in upcoming posts.

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