Talk at the Mavens of Mayhem

On Saturday I spoke to the SINC (Sister in Crime) chapter to which I belong: the Mavens of Mayhem. SINC was started by Sara Paretsky in the 1980’s to support women writers. At that time, women writers were hardly ever reviewed. (Many sources I see in the Library are still like this. Book page mystery section reviews about 85% – 90% men and the few women who appear are heavyweights like Louise Penney. So there is still a lot of work to do. But I digress.)

So Sisters in Crime was begun and now there are chapters all over the country.

Anyway, I put on my librarian hat and spoke about genres and the difficulty of placing a book in the proper slot. Of course there is a lot of discussion on this; many librarians don’t want to “pigeonhole” but I feel it is an aid to the patron who reads only mystery or only romance. Of course within the genres there are sub-genres (noir, historical, cozy for example) and especially now days there are a lot of books that are more than one genre. The Devil’s Bible by Carpenter is mystery, historical, fantasy and even a little romance. (It is a great book, BTW.) Then the question is, where do you locate such a book so readers will find it?

Since several of the writers and beginning writers in the group have books that cross genres, we had a great discussion. One of the members referenced her attempt to find a book Dinosaur barbecue. In the catalog it was listed: Cookery – Dinosaur.

I will leave the peculiarities of subject headings for another day.

Advertisements

Dame Schools

In several of my books, Rees’s children attend dame schools. I mention them almost without a description. (Of course I mention the schooling received at the hands of the Shakers. Boys and girls were segregated: boys were taught by the men during the winter and girls by the women during the summer.)

Well, what are dame schools?

The New England Puritans believed that Satan would try to keep people from understanding the scriptures so it was decided that all children be taught to read. In fact, the first American schools arose in New England. The Boston Latin School was founded in 1635 and the Mather School in 1639 in Dorchester.In 1642 the Massachusetts Bay Colony made town schools compulsory and other New England colonies soon followed. These were for white boys only. Common schools were established in the 1700s but a tuition was charged.

If parents could not homeschool their children they went to dame schools. Considering how busy most women were I wondered how that worked out. With that said, however, there were enough educated women in the North who could function as teachers. Usually they were widows who taught in their own home. They were paid in money but also in kind – baked goods, produce, alcohol and the like. (I imagine the abilities of these untrained teachers varied widely – from essentially a day care to a real school. But I digress.)

In the beginning education focused on reading and ‘rithmetic but soon it was the four R’s; ‘riting and religion as well. Some of the dame schools offered girls embroidery, sewing and other such graces. Dame schools went up to eight grade and most girls went no farther. Boys, however, might move to a grammar school where they were taught advanced arithmetic, Latin and Greek by a male teacher.

There was also a huge divergence between the North and the South. Planters educated their children with tutors and son were frequently sent to England or Scotland for schooling. During the early part of the 1800s, it was against the law to teach slaves but schools for white children were opened in Georgia and South Carolina (1811). Segregated schools for children of all races began opening during Reconstruction and continued until 1954 when the Supreme Court declared state laws establishing segregated schools unconstitutional.

A final note: These schools went only to the eighth grade just like the dame schools. For many rural areas of the country eighth grade school was the norm until 1945.

 

Speaking Engagements

I had a great talk at the Newburgh Library last Wednesday. I have two more coming up. On Sunday, October 23, I will be talking at the Orangeburg Library – in Rockland County, New York. The talk begins at 2.

The following Sunday, I will be speaking about witchcraft at my own library – the Goshen Public Library in Goshen, New York. Hard to believe but I have never spoken there. I felt shy pushing myself into a slot where I work.

Come and ask questions.

Bouchercon 47

As I have mentioned before, I love attending Bouchercon. Not just because it is fun, although it is, but because it is so inspiring. This time I was put on a panel with other authors I have read, except for the one whose book has just come out. And one of my favorites as well: Laura Joh Rowland. I attended the interview of Harlen Coben by Michael Connolly – two heavy hitters. And the panel on social media. Well, I don’t need to continue. The point is that listening to other writers talk, about problems I struggle with – and sometimes they even have solutions – reenergizes me.

And the opening ceremonies with the faux Mardi Gras parade! Words cannot express. I wish I had taken some pictures but I was so caught up in the moment I never thought of it – even for the dragon float.

Holding the conference in New Orleans was wonderful as well. The people are so friendly and the food is great. We also took a few tours. My two favorites: the Mardi Gras World and the Whitney plantation.

I saw the two pretty plantations: Oak Alley and Laura.

oak-alley

laura-plantation

The Whitney Plantation focuses on the lives of the enslaved.

antioch-baptist-church

wall-detail

This is detail from the wall listing all the enslaved at Whitney. I did not take many pictures; it was so sad and horrifying.

If you go to New Orleans try to stop by Mardi Gras World

mardi-gras-float

 

fluffy

 

 

 

Scenes from a move

I have moved many times and each one has had its share of problems. But this one was easily the most grueling of them all. Now that the end is near, I am beginning to see the funny side.

First, the whole mortgage process was awful. OK, no surprise there. But they pushed it for so long we closed on the last possible day. We would have had to start over the following week.

Then we started moving, first from the storage facility (because we staged the house). That took about ten trips in the van. Then from the house. Yes, we hired movers. They brought two trucks. When they got ready to load the second truck it wouldn’t start. Another truck had to be called in and this second crew wouldn’t take a lot of stuff – the kayaks and the canoe for example. Yes, we had to hire a truck from u-haul to load in all this stuff . When we got there to pick it up it was damaged. They had to find another truck for us. We ended driving to Peekskill.

Even after this, we had about ten more trips with the van – to move this stuff. Are we finished? No. But we just have a few things left.

Then there is the commuting, new for me after many years of living ten minutes from my job. One week after moving, the road I take was closed. Yes. And along the detour there were four different places with road repair crews and signs saying people working. (No one was working. They were all drinking coffee and standing around. But I digress.) One day after they opened the road there was a big accident on the Tappan Zee that caused massive backups everywhere. It took me two hours to get home.

And while we’re at it lets talk about the post office. I filled out a change of address form online. Two weeks later we were still not getting any mail at the new house. Why? well, the Campbell Hall Post Office told me I should have come in and spoken to them. Seriously? This is the post office open 9 to 11 in the morning and 2 – 4 in the afternoon. And what about the new mail that was addressed to the new house? I finally called the Yorktown post office The carrier was holding it. Why? I don’t know. But we have begun receiving mail.

There are a host of other issues. Even before we moved in, the kitchen sink fell out of the counter. I finally found a handyman that is scheduled for Thursday.

I am beginning to feel like the hero of an old silent movie who is challenged by one crisis after another.

I love, love, love the new house and the location (despite the commute). but I suspect I will be giving away lots more stuff. Clearly we own too much!

 

Goodreads Giveaway – The Devil’s Cold Dish

Beginning August 1, I am starting a Goodreads Giveaway for A Devil’s Cold Dish. The publisher had a giveaway for only 5 copies. I thought that was less than generous so I will be offering 20 copies.

Devil’s Cold Dish has revenge, witchcraft and murder. As everyone in Dugard turns against Rees and his family, he takes his family to safety with the Shakers of Zion before returning home to find the truth. The question is, will he find it before he himself is captured and probably hung?

I will publish a link to goodreads before the giveaway.