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'Open Year 'Round' tells ins and outs of O.C. Offering pointers to visitors old and new


Ocean City -- Melody McSweeney could have listed motels and hotels among the do's and don'ts for beachgoers in her just-published book, "Open Year 'Round -- An Insider's Guide to Ocean City, Maryland."

But tourists, she says, can get a directory of room accommodations from the Chamber of Commerce.

Or the former Ocean City resident, could have written short takes on historical and tourist sites.

But vacationers can read a AAA travel book for such synopses.

And she could have rated restaurants with dollar signs to signify expensive, moderate or inexpensive meals.

But Ms. McSweeney had more than a typical travel book in mind.

"I've been going to Ocean City since I was 2 years old," says Ms. McSweeney, now 46. "It's a special place to me -- one I can't live away from for too long. I wanted to write something more than just the usual."

Ms. McSweeney has written what she describes as a "reader friendly" guide to the resort, providing newcomers with an idea of where to go and what to do. And, she says, giving long-time vacationers with "surprising new insights."

For the uninitiated, she writes about the do's and don'ts of bicycling, getting around, eating out and shopping.

In light, chatty style, she tells readers where to find sports activities, nightlife and things to do on a rainy day (like checking out the Haitian art gallery at the Coconut Malorie hotel).

"It's an adequate guide like Fodor's for people coming to an area PTC they're not familiar with," says Marty Batchelor, director of the Ocean City Convention and Visitors Bureau. "I don't know that it's necessarily more valuable than one of the local newspapers. On the other hand, it has [everything] all together."

For those who frequent Ocean City, Ms. McSweeny offers off-the-beaten-path activities, such as tea time at the Dunes Manor Hotel, concerts at Northside Park, unique shopping alternatives and "best bets" among snowballs, souvenirs and T-shirts and stores.

She recommends, for instance, that vacationers do their convenience shopping at the 7-Eleven at 120th Street because the owners, the Martin family, manage to keep "their sense of humor" during the summer crunch.

In the 198-page, paperback book, which sells for $10, Ms. McSweeney stresses Ocean City is a year-round resort and she provides a number of off-season activities, including afternoon recitals at the Coconut Malorie hotel, murder mystery weekends and bingo.

Some locals, like Margaret Pillas, are enthusiastic about the book.

"I think it's unusual," says Ms. Pillas, the owner of a boardwalk T-shirt shop. "I like the approach because it's not a tour book. I felt like I was getting part of my town -- it's something I haven't seen in other tour books. You get a sense of the people who live here."

Ms. McSweeney says her inspiration came from years of having to answer questions from friends and newcomers about "where to go, what to do."

She has lived in Ocean City on and off during her adult life, working as an interior decorator, running a small business and writing for local newspapers.

The Baltimore native recently moved to Towson because she was "a little homesick" and wanted to be closer to family, she says.

Unfamiliar with the publishing industry, Mrs. McSweeney financed the book -- her first -- herself and has been making the rounds of book stores in Ocean City and Baltimore.

"It's not the kind of book you can just get a publisher for," she says. "It has a very limited market."

She declines to divulge the cost of her investment or the number of copies printed. Sales, particularly mail orders, have been brisk, she says.

"I've put my life in this book," she says. "I think it shows people what Ocean City is really like and how they can feel comfortable there."

Paul Long was so impressed with the book that he sells it at his gourmet carry-out, A Loaf of Bread, A Jug of Wine and Thou, in Ocean City.

"I think it's one of the best things -- something that has been needed for Ocean City," Mr. Long says. "It's not touristy. She has such a heart for Ocean City."

Insider tips

"Open Year 'Round," is available for $10 at several stores in Ocean City including the News Center, and in the Baltimore area at B. Dalton at White Marsh Mall and Towson Bookstores Inc. on York Road.

Or the book can be ordered by mail by sending $11.95 (includes shipping and handling) to Melody McSweeney, 28 W. Allegheny Avenue, Suite 1701, Towson 21204.

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