Posted in Giveaways Great Escapes Book Tours Interviews Spotlights

Special Guest – Barbara Barrett – Author of Connect the Dots (Mah Jongg Mysteries) – Great Escapes Book Tour – #Interview

I am so happy to have Barbara Barrett visit today!

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Some might call me a snowbird; I prefer the term “seasonal.” My mom was the snowbird. I grew up, carried out my career and raised a family in Iowa. When I retired a while back, I became a Florida resident, although I return to Iowa for summers. I’m a wife, mother and grandmother. I trained to be an instructor in American History; both my undergrad and graduate degrees are in that discipline. When I was unable to find a full-time job in teaching, I took a position in human resources for Iowa State government. There, I learned how to develop and validate employment tests, classify jobs and determine appropriate pay grades. At the end of my career, I was the state’s program manager for workforce planning. For my romance novels, I considered the jobs of the hero and heroine almost secondary characters; I even named my website “Romance at Work” until I started writing cozy mysteries.

What are three things most people don’t know about you?

  1. I learned to play the violin when I was in fourth grade and continued until I graduated from high school. I was concertmistress of our high school orchestra my junior and senior years.
  2. I love Trivia games. Watching “Jeopardy” has become a nightly ritual with my husband and me. On one of my favorite TV programs, “Midsomer Murders,” they call it their “pop quiz.” For the longest time, I thought they were talking about some class in school.
  3. I’m a big fan of Oscar night. I’ve missed very few. Until my recent diet, it also used to be a fun pig-out night. My favorite treat, buttered popcorn with M&Ms or some kind of chocolate. Just a faint memory now.

What is the first book you remember reading?

Readers: can you remember the first book you read? I can’t, at least with certainty. I remember Golden Books like The Poky Little Puppy and The Little Engine that Could, but I think those were read to me by teachers. My first clear memory of a book I read was either Heidi or a Nancy Drew book. A few years later, when I was around thirteen, I read Exodus. It was one of the longest books I’ve ever read, and I took great pride in the fact that I finished it.

What are you reading now?

I just finished reading The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson for my book club. I loved the twists. My goal is to craft the same caliber of twists in my own stories. I will soon begin Becoming by Michelle Obama for book club. Looking forward to it. I am also reading other cozy mysteries, currently, To Bead or Not to Bead by Janice Peacock.

What made you decide you want to write?

I feel like I should be wearing my purple feather boa to answer this question because the inspiration came from a soap opera character, Felicia Gallant on “Another World,” who wrote romance novels and had these wonderful adventures along the way. And wore feather boas while she worked. When I was in my late thirties (please don’t ask me how long ago that was), I wanted more challenge in my life, as if raising two growing children, being a good wife and trying to be a competent cook, attempting without a lot of success to keep our three-story house clean and surviving work politics weren’t enough. Felicia seemed to be doing pretty well in her writing career, so I reasoned maybe I could be a successful author too. I was kidding myself, but by the time I realized my folly, my first book had been published.

Do you have a special place you like to write?

In my dreams, I’m typing away on my laptop in a cozy cabin in the woods or a beach bungalow. In real life, I added a few chapters to my new book while on a cruise through the Panama Canal a few months ago. But mostly, I prefer my offices in both homes. We’ve dedicated guest bedrooms for my writing both in Florida and Iowa. Both have a sofa for lounging (when I need to “brainstorm,” of course) and a television set because I can’t break the habit that’s been with me since high school of having it on while I’m working.

Where do the ideas for your books come from?

These days, the ideas start with the game of Mah Jongg, since my four protagonists met playing this game and continue to play weekly, said game being featured at the beginning of the story and at the end. The titles incorporate Mah Jongg terms. Aside from that, since my protagonists live in a central Florida town and are retired, many of the activities I write about are those things I know about from my life in Florida like senior education classes, planning cruises, having coffee together and fundraisers like a follies.

What books have most inspired you?

Let’s start with the Holy Bible. It grounds me and provides the moral center of my life.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I discovered Agatha Christie at the library. I can’t recall which book I read first, but among the ones I devoured during that period were The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, The Mysterious Affair at Styles and The Murder at the Vicarage. Although I read the Hercule Poirot books, I liked Miss Marple better. This is where my love of the cozy mystery started. Years later, when I began writing, I started first with romance novels because the chances for publication seemed better. Only recently, after publishing eleven romance novels and two romance novellas, have I returned to the cozy.

Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Devising plausible suspects. It’s one thing for a person to dislike another, even hate them, but enough to murder them? A major leap. The real murderer’s motivation has to be credible. Of course, keeping the identity of the murderer in plain view and yet disguised enough so the reader doesn’t see it until near the end is also difficult.

What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

My Mah Jongg Mystery stories feature four protagonists. The same one took the lead in the first two books, but now I’m alternating that role amongst all four with succeeding books. Each character is distinguished from the others with at least one different personal characteristic: leadership, analytical abilities, creativity, and planning. That characteristic is the overriding factor in how each new case is pursued.

What’s next on the horizon for you?

I want to do at least two more books in the Mah Jongg Mystery series, hopefully, more, but I’m also considering a new series. The rights to some of my romance novels should be reverting to me in the next year; when that happens, I plan to reedit, update and self-publish them. This year I’m attending two, possibly three mystery/crime conferences to expand my readership. There might even be a play or a screenplay in my future, because I love to write dialogue.

 

More About the Author

 

Barbara Barrett started reading mysteries when she was pregnant with her first child to keep her mind off things like her changing body and food cravings. When she’d devoured as many Agatha Christies as she could find, she branched out to English village cozies and Ellery Queen.

Later, to avoid a midlife crisis, she began writing fiction at night when she wasn’t at her day job as a human resources analyst for Iowa State Government. After releasing eleven full-length romance novels and one novella, she returned to the cozy mystery genre, using one of her retirement pastimes, the game of mah jongg, as her inspiration. Not only has it been a great social outlet, it has also helped keep her mind active when not writing.

Bamboozled, the second book in her “Mah Jongg Mystery” series, features four friends who play mah jongg together and share otherwise in each other’s lives. None of the four is based on an actual person. Each is an amalgamation of several mah jongg friends with a lot of Barbara’s imagination thrown in for good measure. The four will continue to appear in future books in the series.

Anticipating the day when she would write her first mystery, she has been a member of the Mystery/Romantic Suspense chapter of Romance Writers of America for over a decade. She credits them with helping her hone her craft.

Barbara is married to the man she met her senior year of college. They have two grown children and eight grandchildren.

Author Links

Website – Facebook – Twitter – Pinterest – GoodReads –  Subscribe Cozy Newsletter   

 

About the Book


Connect the Dots (Mah Jongg Mysteries)
Cozy Mystery
3rd in Series
Bowker (February 2, 2019)
Paperback: 278 pages
ISBN-10: 194853214X
ISBN-13: 978-1948532143
Digital ASIN: B07NCB5199

How could a thirty-something man fall to his death from a fourth-floor balcony he knows is defective? That’s the question freelance writer Micki Demetrius is asked to answer by the man’s grieving mother, Clarissa White, who refuses to believe his death was an unfortunate accident. But when the authorities determine it was homicide, Micki is shut out of her investigative efforts.

Giving up is easier said than done for Micki. She can’t resist a mystery, and suspicious characters won’t leave Clarissa alone, from the woman claiming a stake in the victim’s life to a cagey character who wants his business. As the threat to Clarissa grows, Micki feels compelled to help her in spite of the danger.

Micki’s three mah jongg pals—Sydney Bonner, Marianne Putnam and Katrina, Kat, Faulkner—are drawn into the mystery, but the retirees have their own challenges. Syd and husband Trip do grandparent duty while their daughter deals with marital issues. Marianne “finds herself” by writing a one-act play. And Kat must decide how public to go with her growing friendship with the sheriff. Together, they must connect the dots in a nefarious web of greed, neglect, secrecy and murder.

Praise forConnect the Dots (Mah Jongg Mysteries)
by Barbara Barrett

This is another great book that showcases friendship possibly even more than murder!
~A Wytch’s Book Review Blog

Connect the Dots by Barbara Barrett is a five-star read that kept me entertained and wanting to know what happens next . . . Ms. Barrett’s mystery, characters, and the setting were fabulous.
~Baroness’ Book Trove

Purchase Links
Amazon   B&N 

TOUR PARTICIPANTS – Please visit all the stops. 
April 16 – A Wytch’s Book Review Blog – REVIEW
April 16 – Here’s How It Happened – GUEST POST
April 17 – Baroness’ Book Trove – REVIEW
April 18 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
April 19 – Babs Book Bistro – GUEST POST
April 20 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW
April 20 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
April 21 – LibriAmoriMiei – REVIEW
April 21 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
April 22 – My Reading Journey – REVIEW
April 22 – I’m All About Books – GUEST POST
April 23 – Literary Gold – SPOTLIGHT
April 23 – Mallory Heart’s Cozies – REVIEW
April 24 – StoreyBook Reviews – GUEST POST
April 25 – Cozy Up With Kathy – REVIEW, CHARACTER GUEST POST

 

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Posted in Giveaways Great Escapes Book Tours Guest Posts

Special Guest – Barbara Barrett – Author of Craks in a Marriage (Mah Jongg Mysteries) #GuestPost / #Giveaway

I am excited to have Barbara Barrett visit Escape With Dollycas today
as part of her Great Escapes Tour! 

Why I Love Mah Jongg
by Barbara Barrett

Why would anyone decide to base their first cozy mystery series around the game of mah-jongg?

If anyone had come up to me at my retirement party and said something like, “Now you’ll have all the time in the world to enjoy mah-jongg,” I would have scoffed at the idea. Wasn’t that the game little old ladies played? I might be retiring, but I certainly didn’t see myself in that category. I was still young and vital, and I had great plans to expand my writing efforts now that I was no longer working full time.

A little more than a month later, there I was with my trainer and three other women learning the game. It wasn’t easy. The names of the tiles and the procedures, plays, and hands were a brand new language. I was taught the Wright-Patterson version, a form of the game developed by some military wives whose spouses were assigned to that U.S. Air Force Base. The hands used in the more widely played National version are changed annually. Though some remain, several new ones are added. This had become problematic for women whose spouses were transferred throughout the world because it was difficult to stay current. This new version, with almost double the number of hands, was created so it could be used for more than a year.

The Wright-Patterson version was also more intricate in some ways. Players all started the game with the same number of “chips” worth 1, fifty, a hundred, five hundred and a thousand points. Chips were exchanged after each game, depending on who won and who scored better. The winner wasn’t decided until the end of play. Have I lost you? Sorry, I wanted to demonstrate how this game was more “complicated” than the National version.

I’d been playing Wright-Patterson for over a year when I was introduced to the National version. No chips. No small book of over a hundred hands. And some of the tiles, which in the W-P version are quite valuable, were no longer. Instead, eight Jokers, or wild cards, had now been added; they were the most valuable tiles.

Why do I like this game so much? The first reason, which is still foremost, is its social value. I was new in my community right after I retired, and learning this game seemed as good a way as any to meet others. I’ve made some great friends in mah-jongg. The beauty of the National version is its widespread nature. Visitors to our community can join our group for one or a limited number of sessions and readily fit in. I currently play once a week for about three hours. I look forward to those days and try to keep that afternoon free.

This past fall I taught a class on the National version. Three sessions of seventy-five minutes each. We had a very successful sign-up. Too successful, I’m afraid. Even with three other mah jongg players helping me guide each table (five in all) through the terms and plays, we had our hands full. But we had great fun.

And that brings me to the second reason why I love this game: it’s just plain fun. It doesn’t hurt to win occasionally, either, but it’s a great way to spend an afternoon. Sure, I could probably experience the same kind of fun seeing movies I love or playing other games, but I landed on mah jongg.

The third reason is because it is a great exercise for the brain. Not only are you keeping track of the tiles played, you’re also picking new tiles and discarding those you don’t want in order to make a hand. That’s difficult enough, but sometimes the tiles needed aren’t available and you have to change intended hands. Strategy and flexibility are critical to success. Both keep the old brain working.

This game is also a change of pace. It gets me out of my office and away from my laptop for several hours. I don’t know about other authors, but I need frequent breaks, not only for the bod but also to free up the brain. This can also be accomplished by exercise, just getting up and moving around, and through other pastimes like needlepoint and reading.

Mah Jongg also gets me out of the house and gives my spouse time to himself. We all need our space from time to time.

All that aside, I guess what appeals most is the challenge of putting together a winning hand. It takes a certain amount of skill, an ability to read other players, and just plain luck. The challenge lies in excelling at the first two to leverage them against the third.

~Barbara

Thank you, Barbara so much for dropping by today! 

About the Book

Craks in a Marriage (Mah Jongg Mysteries)
Cozy Mystery
1st in Series
Setting – Florida
Self Published (February 6, 2018)
Print Length: 204 pages
ASIN: B079DCX8WQ

When Sydney Bonner overhears a fellow mah jongg player arguing on the phone with her husband, she realizes the couple’s “perfect marriage” isn’t all it appears to be. A few days later, the husband is found dead, his head bashed in. Fearing she’ll be considered the most likely suspect, the widow prevails upon Sydney and her three friends—Marianne, Kat and Micki—to find out who really killed him.

Though none of these four fun-loving, take-charge retirees has any training as detectives, the women agree to launch a secret investigation. As they dig under the happy veneer of their community’s social life, they find more than enough suspects, from shady ladies to resentful golf buddies, to keep them looking over their shoulders.

Could the murderer be lurking among the talent in a chaotic production put on by Sydney’s husband, who will do anything to keep busy in retirement? Could the sheriff, who may have more than a professional interest in chanteuse Kat, end up pinning the crime on the women instead? Each discovery during their investigations and their weekly mah jongg game keeps them running as they close in on the killer—but the killer may also be closing in on them.

About the Author

 

Barbara Barrett started reading mysteries when she was pregnant with her first child to keep her mind off things like her changing body and food cravings. When she’d devoured as many Agatha Christies as she could find, she branched out to English village cozies and Ellery Queen.

Later, to avoid a midlife crisis, she began writing fiction at night when she wasn’t at her day job as a human resources analyst for Iowa State Government. After releasing eleven full-length romance novels and one novella, she has returned to the cozy mystery genre, using one of her retirement pastimes, the game of mah jongg, as her inspiration. Not only has it been a great social outlet, it has also helped keep her mind active when not writing.

Craks in a Marriage, the first book in her “Mah Jongg Mystery” series, features four friends who seek the murderer of another mah jongg player’s husband before she is charged. None of the four is based on an actual person. Each is an amalgamation of several mah jongg friends with a lot of Barbara’s imagination thrown in for good measure. The four will continue to appear in future books in the series.

Anticipating the day when she would write her first mystery, she has been a member of the Mystery/Romantic Suspense chapter of Romance Writers of America for over a decade. She credits them with helping her hone her craft.

Barbara is married to a man she met her senior year of college. They have two grown children and eight grandchildren.

Now retired, she is a resident of Florida, although she spends her summers in Iowa, her home state. She earned her B.A. degree in History from the University of Iowa and her Master’s Degree in History from Drake University.

When not in front of her laptop creating her next story, she plays Mah Jongg, knits, and enjoys lunches with friends.

Author Links

Website – Facebook – Twitter – Pinterest – GoodReads

Subscribe to her newsletter: barbarabarrett747@gmail.com

Purchase Links

Amazon   B&N 


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TOUR PARTICIPANTS – Visit all the stops. 

February 28 – Texas Book-aholic – REVIEW

February 28 – StoreyBook Reviews – GUEST POST

March 1 – Babs Book Bistro – GUEST POST, GIVEAWAY

March 2 – Cozy Up With Kathy – REVIEW, AUTHOR INTERVIEW

March 2 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – GUEST POST, GIVEAWAY

March 3 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

March 4 – Laura’s Interests – SPOTLIGHT

March 4 – Mysteries with Character – GUEST POST, GIVEAWAY

March 5 – Readeropolis – AUTHOR INTERVIEW, GIVEAWAY

March 6 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW

March 7 – Valerie’s Musings – REVIEW

March 7 – Maureen’s Musings – SPOTLIGHT

March 8 – My Reading Journeys – REVIEW

March 8 – Socrates’ Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

March 9 – A Blue Million Books – GUEST POST

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