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Connect the Dots
(Mah Jongg Mysteries)
by Barbara Barrett
About the Book
Connect the Dots (Mah Jongg Mysteries)
3rd in Series
Bowker (February 2, 2019)
Paperback: 278 pages
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.
About the Author
Interview with the Author
What initially got you interested in writing?
I received several kudos for my writing skills while I was still a youth. It started with my fourth grade teacher’s praise. In sixth grade, a description of a trip to France (based purely on encyclopedia articles and my imagination, since I’d never been there) was published in the local paper (didn’t hurt, I guess, that my mother worked there). When I was fifteen, an essay I wrote for my church won second place for my age group in the denomination. In high school, I was asked to write a weekly teen gossip column for the local paper (and yes, my mother still worked there and now I was also friends with the editor’s daughter). Taking essay tests in college was a snap, as long as I knew the content. In my thirties, I was called upon to put together my state government agency’s annual report. None of these achievements really sparked my interest in writing, though; they were simply a means to an end. But it was there waiting for me to discover in my late thirties, when I needed an outlet besides my family, church and job to keep my mind active. I taped the soap opera “Another World” daily, and one year a new character, a flamboyant romance novelist named Felicia Gallant appeared on the scene. I could do that, I told myself. So I tried. That first manuscript, which took more years than I’d like to admit to complete, is still unpublished. But along the way, I fell in love with creating a story that was totally the product of my imagination. The high I got from writing was enough to keep me at my typewriter/laptop the next several years.
What genres do you write in?
My first eleven novels and two novellas are contemporary romances. Eight of the eleven were published by the Wild Rose Press. Two are trilogies set in Iowa, my home state. One stand-alone is currently part of Amazon’s Encore program. The rights to the other stand-alone were reverted to me last year and I self-published it last fall. I also own the rights to the two novellas. In early 2018, I published my first cozy mystery, Craks in a Marriage, and the third book in the series, Connect the Dots, I released in February of this year.
What drew you to writing these specific genres?
Way back when (I’m embarrassed to tell you exactly when because it took me a while to be published), I read Shana by Kathleen Woodiwiss and fell in love with the modern-day romance novel (even though this was in the days of the bodice-ripper, which most romance novelists today shy away from). This was about the same time I was seeking an additional outlet for my creative energies, and kismet, the two interests merged. Plus, and this is a hoot because of how wrong I was, but that was before I learned I also had to research my craft, I was under the impression the romance novel was the best entrée into the industry because interest in romances was just starting to mount. I was about two to three years behind the trend; I faced lots of competition. But I stuck with it and eventually (many years pass here), I was picked up in 2012.
I’d also fallen in love with the cozy mystery when pregnant with my first child and looking for something to keep my mind occupied and off eating. My husband was working for a university at the time, so I was able to check out several Agatha Christie novels from their library and not have to pay. When I finished all of those, I moved on to Ellery Queen. When it came time to writing my own my novel, I chose the path of romance first, and once I got started, felt I should continue until I had a body of work to my credit before moving on to my real love, the cozy. There’s still a Book 4 and Book 5 waiting to be written for my Underwood Productions contemporary romance series, but for now, cozies it is.
How did you break into the field?
The advent and growing popularity of the digital novel produced my first break in 2012. A new line was just getting started and needed inventory. The Sleepover Clause was published later that year. Shortly thereafter I was contacted by The Wild Rose Press about another book, And He Cooks Too. After a few revisions, they published it within the year. I am grateful to Rhonda Penders and RJ Morris for giving me a chance and providing me with competent editors and a cover artist from whom I learned about the industry before going indie.
What do you want readers to take away from reading your works?
I want the experience of reading my books to be fun for my readers. I want them to be motivated to read more books, and not just mine. I want them to feel challenged to guess the murderer before the big reveal at the end, but not soon.
What do you find most rewarding about writing?
The most rewarding part of writing for me is being able to let my imagination go to not only devise interesting stories but also arrive at logical, satisfying conclusions. I strive to find the “organic” whole of a story: the end balances the beginning supported throughout by step-by-step building blocks.
What do you find most challenging about writing?
What I said above. (Chuckle) Beyond that, with cozy mysteries, finding several plausible suspects for the murder isn’t easy. At some point, my protagonists have to believe each of them is capable of murder. It’s not enough to develop the real murderer, which is hard enough. The other challenge of the cozy is that my protagonists are amateur sleuths. Mine aren’t even trained in forensics or law enforcement investigative techniques. I have to establish means for them to come in contact with the suspects to question them when they don’t have the formal credentials to demand information or retrieve it from proprietary data bases. And, like any good cozy, the “law,” in this case Sheriff Rick Formero, isn’t crazy about them messing with his cases but must somehow resign himself to their continuing interference.
What advice would you give to people wanting to enter the field?
First, they have to have talent. If they can’t write, there’s no point going further. But if they do, they also have to realize talent isn’t enough. They have to believe in their work and themselves, because it’s highly likely there’ll be more than one rejection in their future. Then they have to be willing to put in the time and do the work and not settle for the mediocre. They have to know what they want from writing, what their goals are, because if they don’t have a clear idea, they’ll spend their time and money wandering down one path after another with minimal chance of success. If they decide to go the indie path, they need the financial means to go there; they have to be willing to pay for great editing and covers. And if they’ve checked all these boxes, they have to be willing to promote their books, not just write them. Yes, they can pay someone else to do the promoting them, but in the end, they have to put themselves forward to meet readers and talk about their books.
What type of books do you enjoy reading?
Several years ago, I joined a local book club so while I wrote commercial fiction, I could keep one foot in the literary world of both fiction and non-fiction, although many of our selections are also commercial works. In the last year I’ve enjoyed Run by Ann Patchett, Little Fires Everywhere by Celest Ng, The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah and most recently, The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson. All were examples of great storytelling. In the end, that’s what’s important to me. (Great writing doesn’t hurt either and no one should sneeze at correct spelling and punctuation.)
Is there anything else besides writing you think people would find interesting about you?
I am a grandmother with grandchildren ranging from 22 to 3. They are so precious to me. No matter how much I attempt to shape my words, it’s difficult for me to share the incredible feeling of family and legacy I get whenever I think of them. My two adult children and their spouses aren’t chopped liver, either, but there’s something very profound and deeply human about being part of these young lives which I didn’t give life to who still carry my blood and genes.
What are the best ways to connect with you, or find out more about your work?
The easiest way is to subscribe to my newsletter, “It’s a Mystery to Me,” at https://www.subscribepage.com/BBCozies. I try to let my subscribers know what’s going on with me before I post elsewhere. Interested parties can also write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to my website at http://barbarabarrettbooks.com.
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.
Website – http://www.barbarabarrettbooks.com
Twitter – www.twitter.com/bbarrettbooks
Pinterest – pinterest.com/barbarabarrett7
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