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Craks in a Marriage (Mah Jongg Mysteries)
by Barbara Barrett
About the Book
Craks in a Marriage (Mah Jongg Mysteries)
1st in Series
Setting – Florida
Self Published (February 6, 2018)
Print Length: 204 pages
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
INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR
What initially got you interested in writing?
By my late thirties, I’d achieved several life goals. I had a wonderful husband, two beautiful children, a job I liked and a lovely house. Though advancement at work was still a possibility, I was at loose ends in my life. Until my favorite soap opera introduced a new character who was a romance writer. That sparked my imagination. I didn’t need the feather boas she wore to compose her novels, but I liked her otherwise glamorous lifestyle. I could do that, I told myself. Hadn’t my teachers from grade school through high school praised my writing? I could do what she did. I tell people now that writing helped me avoid a midlife crisis. (Although I still got a red convertible about that time.)
What genres do you write in?
I have been writing contemporary romance since my late thirties. I was first published over five years ago. I’ve published eleven novels and one novella. This past year, I returned to my love of mysteries and wrote a cozy mystery of my own, Craks in a Marriage. I’m using the same pen name of Barbara Barrett for both.
What drew you to writing these specific genres?
As noted above, I decided to write contemporary romance because that’s what my soap opera character wrote. My masters’ degree is in American History, but I chose not to write in this area, because I knew how much research would be involved, and I wasn’t ready to return to that after my thesis. As a former human resources management analyst who studied jobs in her former life, my characters’ occupations played a major role in developing their stories.
I started reading cozies when pregnant with my first child and needing something to keep my mind occupied. I fell in love with Agatha Christie books, especially the Miss Marple series. Later, when I’d gone through most of those, I turned to English country cozies.
How did you break into the field?
The rise of the digital book and the subsequent growth of digital publishing helped me enter the field. In just a few years, many more opportunities opened up to authors seeking a place for their works to be seen. I am very grateful to The Wild Rose Press for taking a chance on me. I published eight books with them before I felt I was ready to fly on my own last summer.
What do you want readers to take away from reading your works?
I want my readers to enjoy the read and be taken outside their daily life for a short period while going through the book. For my romances, which of course have the happy ending, I hope they take heart that many relationship problems can be worked through if both individuals contribute to the solution.
For my cozies, I hope readers have fun attempting to identify the murderer before my sleuths do and exercise their brains in the process.
What do you find most rewarding about writing?
I enjoy the journey taken by my brain and spirit when I write, as I travel in my head and on the computer screen from the mere germ of an idea to a full-blown plot with an ending that satisfies and makes sense. The whole time I’m putting together a book, it’s like I can’t go fast enough to finish it, even when temporarily blocked, and yet when it’s done, I feel lost and alone. Until I start the next one.
What do you find most challenging about writing?
Finding the right words to convey the true story I want to tell. I was tempted to say “finding just the right words,” but I’ve learned there comes a time to stop. The revision process is hard. Grueling. But so important. Not just for being true to the story but for helping the reader understand the characters’ thoughts and motivations.
And, of yeah, I have a terrible time with character development. Love writing dialogue.
What advice would you give to people wanting to enter the field?
Figure out what types of writing excite you most and explore writing in them. Keep what works and move away from what doesn’t.
Educate yourself about the publishing world and the current publishing process and decide on your entry point: large publisher, small publisher, digital-only publisher or self-publish.
Know that the publishing world has become super-competitive. You probably won’t realize how much until you break in, but even with your fore-knowledge, realize you’ll be shocked and you’ll have to work harder than you ever thought necessary.
Unless you’re picked up by one of the top publishers and offered lots of money and support, plan to do most of your promoting by yourself. Or pay a bundle to have someone do it for you.
Finish the book. It may not be the one that eventually gets published, but the self-confidence that comes with completing an entire story is fuel that will charge your brain to create more and proof that you can do it.
Write every day. It takes a while for the discipline to be established, but in time, it’s like exercise, you can’t stand to be away from for any length of time.
Get feedback. Not from your friends and family but from other writers.
Join a writers’ group. The support you’ll receive is more fuel for your spirit and brain.
What type of books do you enjoy reading?
Love reading mysteries. I’d rather listen to thrillers on tape. Several years ago I joined a book club, mainly as a social outlet, because we chose to meet each month at a different restaurant. But this experience has exposed me to stories and authors I might never have discovered were it not for book club.
Is there anything else besides writing you think people would find interesting about you?
So far, we haven’t talked about the subject of Craks in a Marriage, the game of mah jongg. Like the book club, I initially learned how to play the game as a way of meeting other people when I moved to Florida. Over time, I’ve come to love the game. I play two versions a week. When I decided to write a cozy, what better concept than to make this game the central feature? While I was at it, I chose to make my characters retirees like me, who live in the fictional town of Serendipity Springs in central Florida.
I also live in my home state of Iowa five months a year. My husband designed the house we built when we downsized five years ago.
What are the best ways to connect with you, or find out more about your work?
Start with my website www.barbarabarrettbooks.com. I have combined both the romance and cozy mystery elements of my career there. You can find descriptions of all my books and buylinks for them.
Next, consider liking and following my author pages, http://bit.ly/2aXZvG9. I tend to update it more frequently.
You can email me at email@example.com, especially if you’d like to sign up for my mystery newsletter.
If you want visuals of who and what I envisioned in my novels, check out my Pinterest page, http://pinterest.com/barbarabarrett7.
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.
Website – http://www.barbarabarrettbooks.com
Twitter – www.twitter.com/bbarrettbooks
Pinterest – pinterest.com/barbarabarrett7
Subscribe to my newsletter: firstname.lastname@example.org
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