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11-7-2016 Researching History

On Saturday I led a workshop on Historical Research for the Montgomery County, MD, Chapter of the Maryland Writers’ Association. I covered all the avenues I pursued in researching my books Shadow of the Rock and In Rembrandt’s Shadow as well as my 90s Club cozyShadow-of-the-Rock_front-cover-only_kindle-size[1] mysteries.

In doing this kind of research, I give my thanks and appreciation to the many specialized and local museums around the country. Many of them have knowledgeable docents there to answer questions as well as a library and archive. Their bookstores often have books or booklets about some aspect of local history and if the booklet doesn’t have the specific information you need, you have another resource, the author who may not have used the information in his book but have it on hand.

Here are a few museums that were useful to me. Continue reading “11-7-2016 Researching History”

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Mystery Loves Company

I recently joined Sisters in Crime (SinC) and its Chesapeake Chapter for the networking, information, education and marketing opportunities they afford. As anyone who reads my blogs knows, I am a firm believer in associations.

As a result, I was one of the authors speaking at a well-attended, SinC-sponsored, mystery author “speed-dating” program at the Howard County (Maryland) Library. The program was followed by a book-signing. Each of us authors was given 5 minutes to talk about our books while Kathy Harig, owner of the Mystery Loves Company Bookstore, Oxford, MD, was on hand to sell them. Kathy has been a strong supporter of Sisters in Crime since it formed in 1987 to equalize opportunities for women mystery authors.

Kathy is a former librarian who took on the mystery bookstore business in 1991. I drove out to interview her last week (see latelastnightbooks.com), browsed the shelves, bought some books and enjoyed an interesting conversation with Kathy.

For mystery lovers like me, the visit introduced me to the mystery bookstore as the resource I’ve looked for all my life. Kathy stocks whole series from the beginning, even if it means filling in out-of-print early books with used ones. She does the buying and she knows her customers, so she is likely to buy books because she knows exactly who among her customers would be delighted to get it. She knows many mystery authors personally and she knows the kind of books they write, so she’s an excellent resource when you’ve read everything your favorite author has written. She can steer you right.

Plus the store is in a historic building dating from the 1900s that used to be a bank and a post office. The town of Oxford is quiet, quaint and on the shore. A visit is worth the drive across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, especially if you include the ferry across the river to St. Michaels.

Sisters in Crime (sistersincrime.org) was formed in 1987. The need for such an organization became clear in 1986 at the first conference on Women in Mystery, at Hunter College. Sara Paretsky, considered the founding mother, spoke on the growing use of graphic sadism against women in mysteries. These remarks resonated with many of those present. Then Phyllis Whitney wrote to Mystery Writers of America, pointing out that women authors weren’t being nominated for awards. At Bouchercon later that year, a meeting of women authors was convened where Sara noted that books by woman mystery writers also weren’t being reviewed at a percentage equal to their participation in the field. The Initial steering committee members were Charlotte MacLeod, Kate Mattes, Betty Francis, Dorothy Salisbury Davis, Sara Paretsky, Nancy Pickard and Susan Dunlap.
– Eileen Haavik McIntire

On Launching a Book

My second book in the 90s Club cozy mystery series, entitled The 90s Club & the Whispering Statue, has gone through two critique groups, two editors, numerous drafts and I’m getting ready to launch. This is when the fear hits.

Is it good enough? Will it sustain the reader’s attention? Are my characters developed enough? Does the plot make any sense? I am a worse critic of my own writing than the cruelest jibe expert.

It’s time to get out my copy of Rotten Reviews and Rejections* and read the nasty comments reviewers gave to such famous authors as Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and Shakespeare. The book is full of examples. Of Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, George Brimley in the Spectator said: “More than any of its predecessors chargeable with not simply faults, but absolute want of construction…meagre and melodramatic.”  William Winstanley, 1687, said of John Milton: “His fame is gone out like a candle in a snuff and his memory will always stink.” The San Francisco Examiner rejected Rudyard Kipling with: “I’m sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.” Of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, the New York Herald Tribune called it “A lugubrious and heavy-handed piece of propaganda.”

A reviewer once said of a Laura Lippman mystery that her latest book showed her development as a novelist.  I, too, am growing as a novelist. Each book is the best I can do at that moment. I hope the next will show stronger character development, more intricate plotting, and a greater sensitivity to the human condition.  But right now, this is where I’m at.

I’ll be speaking April 17 at Charlestown Retirement Village in Baltimore on writing, publishing and my 90s Club mystery series. I’m looking for other speaking gigs as well. On April 27, we will have an exhibit at the Amelia Island, FL, Book Festival.

I continue to be astounded at what people in their 90s and 100s are doing in the world. My friend Pat sent me an article about a 100-year-old woman who’s a computer whiz at her retirement community and also creates its gardens. Pat met her at a birding lecture, where she wanted to know what flowers to plant to attract birds. They were sitting next to each other and walked out together. Pat thought she was maybe 70 or so and then came across the article  that she sent to me.

Know someone who is turning 90? Give them a copy of my book, The 90s Club & the Hidden Staircase. They’ll enjoy the light touch and positive outlook on old age. High school or college reunion coming up? The 90s Club series is a wryly humourous gift for attendees. Contact me for a 50 percent discount off the cover price for orders of 10 or more. Email:  eileenmcintire@aol.com.

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About The 90s Club & the Hidden Staircase: The 90s Club at Whisperwood Retirement Village discovers a simmering brew of thefts, murders, and exploitation bubbling beneath its active lifestyle in this cozy mystery, the first in a series by Eileen Haavik McIntire. Except for the evil underfoot, the mystery accurately presents life in an upscale retirement community while spoofing stereotypes about the elderly.  “A must” for readers of cozy mysteries” – Midwest Book Review.

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* Pushcart’s Complete Rotten Reviews & Rejections, edited by Bill Henderson and Andre Bernard. Pushcart Press, Wainscott, NY, 1998.

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