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remembering barbara mertz

Discovery, Books, and Egypt

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Hi all, we are getting some updates on the “Discovery Sale” being held online only, alongside the Gallery Auction at Cooper’s this week.  Items from both events are being displayed simultaneously, although the “Discovery” items are being sold separately (with lower-ticket stuff, it seems).

This is most definitely more Barbara’s than our kind of setting and interest, so we will just highlight the BOOKS!  (Always a shared interest!) and Egyptian things that wound up in “Discovery” — but there are also some other assorted items (all marked as being Barbara’s).

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BOOKS!  … on EgyptSherlock Holmes & other detectives; novels from Edgar Rice Burroughs to a set of Mark Twain (a favorite author of both Barbara’s and her father’s); books on architecture & art, old-fashioned readings (Baroness Orczy, Rafael Sabatini, John Buchan, George MacDonald); books Barbara enjoyed since when she was younger (LM Montgomery, Alcott, Wren); more of the latter with some extra favorites thrown in (like Aiken and Farjeon); a mix of some of the above that adds in Noel Streatfield and E.Nesbit, among others; some L.Frank Baum;  mysteries ….  and, for the “Another Shirt Ruined” crew — H.Rider Haggard, along with “Sons of the Sheik” (really?) and some of her well-worn T.H. White & Elizabeth Goudge.   Within those covers, many feasts.

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Besides books on Egypt, there are Egypt-themed figures and framed prints and toys (fun to look at, for those who share Barbara’s sense of the frivolous).

Oh, and of course, there has to be …. a cat.

Ps … a cheat sheet on the auction …

In response to those who’ve wanted help in checking out the upcoming Baltimore-area event, here are some short-cuts:

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[hint: look *under* the hats….]

 

**Guy with classical good looks

**No evil eyes on these cats!

**Another guy with classical good looks (do we detect a theme?)

**Not Emerson’s travel kit (for obvious reasons)

**Some odd Egyptian-themed things

**Fiat lux!

**Fiat more lux?

**More Egyptian-themed things (do we detect another trend?)

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**Not Emerson’s chest (for obvious reasons)

**OK, antique  furniture for those of you who find it   interesting (sorry, still scarred from too many antique show expeditions as a child to get into this….)

**Although, this one is kind of fun

**And these all match

**Ooh, these match AND you can eat food on them!

**And this could be useful for seeing yourself 

**Again, not Emerson’s manly chest as Amelia likes to describe it…

**Sethos’s chest?  nope

**Running  out of things to say  about all this

**Of possible interest to pie lovers

**Never heard of a lap desk before … kind of a cool idea, though

**Egyptian revival furniture? at least it has Egypt in the title….

**Ramses’s chest?  ok we’re done with chest jokes!

**The horse is definitely cool

**American Gothic … chandelier?? (Ammie Come Home, anyone?)

**While we’re on the ghost stories, there’s this…

**Our woman with the cat

Etc!.………

For fans in the Baltimore area….

… and people who, like Barbara, are into antiques….  (unlike some (not all!) of Barbara’s progeny, for whom being dragged to antique shows ranked lower than going to the dentist).

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There are going to be several events coming up in the Baltimore-Frederick area in the next couple of months that will feature some items from Barbara’s estate.  One part of this effort will involve bundling part of Barbara’s (incredibly massive) book collection into themed parcels .. including, for those of you following recent exchanges about this on Facebook’s “Another Shirt Ruined” group — her H. Rider Haggard collection! (Be forewarned, Barbara used her books with gusto — they were there to be read, not looked at!  She boasted that as a child, her father teased her that he never knew what food items might show up in a book she was reading….) (Chocolate ones preferred, of course.)   Some of this will be cataloged online, while some will just be up for viewing at the event sites.

We mention this in case you’d like to see things from the grand to the little and silly from Barbara’s life.  (To be clear, this is about sharing the fun, not urging anyone to buy anything…. there will be plenty of collector-types, just like Barbara, to do that!)   You can eyeball some things online — but the actual display in the galleries may be fun to browse in person if you’re in the area (and it’s free to go see it!).

SO, the first event is at Alex Cooper’s galleries in Towson, Maryland, on April 7 and 9.  The official catalog features the big items — but there should also be some smaller, Egypt-themed silly stuff on display.  (Barbara prided herself on never losing a child-like sense of humor and fun, so she delighted in kids’ toys and collected Lord-of-the-Rings stuff of all kinds….)  Not sure yet about the books, but will update as we can.  And oh, all right, yes, there’s some furniture (yawn)(sorry, still can’t get excited about it!).

The Cooper’s brochure gives a few more details, and there are online pictures of some stuff, including that great carousel horse (the only ride she really enjoyed at amusement parks — but she would ride that one numerous times, chortling as she went!) — and of course there has to be a woman with a cat!

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The “Writing Den”–Barbara’s Study

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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 ….

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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?):

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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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2015 in the MPM Fan World

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Snowfall at “MPM Manor”!

Hi all!  This post took some time to compose, but with help from fans and friends, we’ve begun to pull together some of the diverse threads of the Mertz-Peters-Michaels fandom for this “Review of the MPM World in 2015.”  If you know of something we missed, we’d love to hear from you!

This has been an exciting time for us.  As novices in social media, we at MPM have been really enjoying our introductions to the rich and creative discussions and posts in places like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr …  and we’ve just started to venture into Pinterest as well. MPM fans are doing everything from readings of Amelia books (complete with period illustrations and background research) – to a collective effort at developing a timeline for the AP series.   And there are fun musings on all aspects of MPM’s writings in a number of places – we keep finding more….

One terrific thing about this fandom is that it is always turning up news on Egypt, history, archaeology, pioneering women, writing and literature, mystery and fantasy, and …  the list keeps going!  (Let’s not forget cats, tea, stronger drinks than tea, food, chocolate …  but we digress…)  In other words, these are curious, imaginative, interesting and interested readers who keep the fun and new ideas going…. from Amarna to Jane Austen to Star Wars, there’s never a dull moment

Fans of Amelia characteristically turned up in force in response to the wonderful Trowelblazer group’s call for names of fictional trowelblazers (pioneering women in archaeology, palaeontology & geology).

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On Twitter and Tumblr, the unstoppable TeamRamses (TR) completed a spirited (and always funny!) reading ofLion in the Valley”, and set us up for a 2016 foray into “Seeing a Large Cat.”  (Check out the growing and beautifully illustrated set of quotes from “Cat” on Tumblr)  We especially appreciated TR’s explanation of 3 story arcs in the Amelia series.

MPM started its own Twitter account this year.  Other Twitter highlights in 2015:

Fans of Amelia have been popping up and gathering at amazing rates.  It’s really encouraging to see new people tuning in to say that they are so glad to find other fans! Or that they are just now discovering Amelia!  (lucky dogs!  Imagine having the whole series to discover).

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You can also now find MPM on Tumblr.

And, in addition to TR, there are some great long-term Amelia-ites on Tumblr:  CHECK OUT AmeliaPeabodyEmerson (APE) and AmeliaPeabodyBookClub (APBC), who joined forces this year to take us on a tour of the Petrie Museum in London. Take a look as they “hit up the Petrie Museum for some mutual Egyptology and Amelia Peabody geeking out.”

AmeliaPeabodyEmerson’s Tumblr tag line is a favorite Amelia-ism: “When one is striding bravely into the future one cannot watch one’s footing”… and the APE archive has some great quotes from the books.

Also on Tumblr, APBC updated the Book Club’s pages, which have a growing wealth of commentary, analysis, fanart, and more.  One of the more searching discussions of some hard-to-pin-down aspects of Amelia’s timeline can be found here. The Book Club crew also began a discussion and critique of some Egypt-related movies. In 2016 AMBC is inviting fans and friends to join in the the ambitious task of putting together a detailed timeline for the AP series – the start of which can be seen here.

Further Tumblr highlights in 2015:

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On Facebook, the venerable and venerated “Another Shirt Ruined” group continues to provide opportunities for fans and friends to share thoughts about MPM’s books, as well as memories of Barbara (thanks to Lyn Green’s leadership!).  In 2015, Don Ryan posted a lovely recollection:  “I met Barbara about 20 years ago and we became very good friends. She loved visiting Egypt from time to time, especially Luxor, where she rented the most expensive suite at the Winter Palace Hotel. She was usually accompanied by a small entourage of pals and they all had a grand time. Her visits coincided a couple of times with my expedition in the Valley of the Kings and we were delighted that she came out to the site to see what we were finding. And every evening she would have cocktails with her friends out on her balcony to watch the beautiful sunset over the Theban mountains.”

Lyn Green and William Joy also pointed readers  of “Another Shirt” to the way Barbara combined research for her books with hobbies such as vintage clothing and jewelry collecting.  And there were interesting posts to this group on Hilda Petrie and similarities between her and Amelia — as well as comments on MPM books beyond just the Amelia series.  You can also check out MPM’s own new Facebook page.

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And we are using THIS BLOG as our primary site for recollections of Barbara, inspired initially by Deborah Lehr’s wonderful piece written on the second anniversary of Barbara’s death in August of 2015.  We thank William and Laura for their work in getting us up and running in these various locations – and the generous friends and fans who’ve welcomed and supported these nascent efforts.

WEBPAGE UPDATE:  we’re in the process of shifting Barbara’s official webpage, and are awaiting that shift before anything more can be added.  Stay tuned for news on that and other developments, through this blog.

You’re very welcome to JOIN IN these efforts, or let us know about other efforts we haven’t yet discovered!  The MPM email is: mpmmanor@gmail.com

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The yearly MPM cat greeting…

There’s something about cats and writers, not sure what, but certainly any fan or friend of Barbara’s knew the connection was there!  Every year at this time, for many years, she sent out an annual season’s greetings… and each card featured one of her cats.

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So, in honor of the season, we thought we’d share a photo from 2007.  Here you see a younger version of Gandalf (whom you met in an earlier post as he clung determinedly to “his” chair in Barbara’s kitchen).

For anyone wanting to revel in cats and seasonal references, we recommend Trojan Gold — a Vicky Bliss mystery.  Set against the backdrop of a Bavarian Christmas, the book ends with a feline flourish… (No spoilers!  But suffice it to say that one of our heroes may have met his most painful adversary in a cat resisting the indignity of a bow tied around  her neck …  “The bow was under her chin, and so lacerated I had to cut the ribbon off.  It took all three of us to cram her in the carrier I had bought that morning….  the thing that touched me the most was my hero’s gallantry in taking on [the cat] singlehanded…”)

With each new year, like many in her Amelia Peabody family, Barbara often spoke of her hopes for a peace that could reach across senseless habits of suspicion, violence, and ill-will toward others.  This seems an appropriate year to renew those wishes, in the spirit of good-will and basic human decency that characterized so much of what she stood for.

All our best hopes and wishes to you and yours in 2016.

 

 

Magic of books, a child’s eyes

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“You have to bring the magic with you!”

This was what Barbara envisioned writing in an indignant letter to a newspaper (which shall remain nameless) that published a critical review of one of the Harry Potter movies.  She felt that the reviewer had missed the spirit of Harry Potter by watching through a jaded adult’s eyes. And she believed in keeping the magic of childhood alive, whether through reading (and re-reading) children’s books, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the latest fantasy and science fiction movies, or delighting in a new children’s toy she’d discovered.

And no one entered the holiday season with more feelings of fun and anticipation.  Barbara was easy to buy for — a silly-looking stuffed cat, a light saber, Bilbo/Frodo’s sword Sting, or some goofy joke ornament for her tree — all would be received with her characteristic throaty chortle.  So it seems like a good moment to think about the magical worlds that opened up for many of us when we first encountered books as children.  This was something Barbara never forgot, and throughout her life she could be seen buried in one children’s book or another, along with all the other books she was devouring.  (She was a quick and avid reader.)

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As you can see, Rosemary Wells’s Max and Ruby books rub shoulders with George MacDonald’s Princess and Curdie on her bookshelves — and every L.M. Montgomery or L. Frank Baum book ever published can be found tucked away somewhere or other.  Some favorite series by women authors were accompanied by biographies, so that she could read about Montgomery or Alcott or Nesbit after reading what they’d written.

What were/are your favorite children’s books?  It’s a great season to once again experience the magic of books — and the world — through a child’s eyes.

 

Barbara’s secret “other” book

We’ve been hinting that there might be a surprise or two from MPM Manor.  In this post, we reveal a long-held secret, known only to writers and friends who were close to her:

It was Barbara who finished — indeed, wrote much of — her friend Charlotte MacLeod’s last book The Balloon Man.

IMG_0526As Charlotte planned and started to write The Balloon Man, she became increasingly ill and ultimately could not do much more than write an initial section with some sketches of where she wanted the book to go.  This was the final book in Charlotte’s beloved Sarah Kelling/Max Bittersohn series.  As a final gift to her dear friend and fellow writer, Barbara sat down with what Charlotte had written, and finished the book.  She insisted on doing this anonymously, leaving the profits to go to help Charlotte during her final illness.

In preparation for this painful task, Barbara re-read the Kelling/Bittersohn series, and then attempted to write the book in a voice that was as faithful to Charlotte’s as possible.  (It’s possible, now that readers know, that they may detect some Barbara’isms peeking through here and there.)  Charlotte wrote in a humorous, erudite, “cozy” style that had always been very appealing to Barbara, and that exemplified the kind of writing in which her “Malice Domestic” crew specialized.

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Here’s to writers, and to women, who support each other in meaningful ways — and here’s to paying it forward through many generations to come.

 

Postscript on Vintage Barbara: send us your pics!

To any friends and fans who might have wound up with some of Barbara’s vintage collection:  we’d love to see you in costume, or to see how you fixed up any part of the collection you might have gotten!  (Because of logistics and the size of the collection, the home crew couldn’t go through all the items and photograph or catalog them.  But we know for sure that we have pics of Barbara in some of the items, so we can trade photos….)

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Here, for example is the white cowboy hat that was sold at the auction, and …..

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…. here you see Barbara wearing the hat as she tries to get us to believe she is actually a country-and-western singer.  (It looks like this was a time when she was really into southwestern jewelry, although she certainly started being interested much earlier, while visiting her parents out in Arizona.) …..aaaaand, look who else is wearing a very similar hat on the cover of Last Train to Memphis!  (Photo credit for the picture of Barbara is to Kristen Whitbread, and for the pictures as formatted here to William Joy… thanks!)

SO if anyone has pics of recently acquired EP vintage stuff, please send them to us at

mpmmanor@gmail.com

(and let us know if it’s okay with you for us to post them!)

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