Sunday, July 8, 2018


I'm so excited to be a stop on the blog tour for author
Book 2 in the Mah Jongg Mysteries
by Barbara Barrett

Essential oils distributor Dorcas Wiley is the boss everyone loves to hate. So when she turns up dead, killed by her own trophy, disgruntled saleswoman Cathy Broderick is the obvious suspect in her murder. Despite opportunity, motive and incriminating evidence, Cathy declares her innocence and enlists her mah jongg pals—Sydney Bonner and her cronies Marianne, Micki and Kat—to help save her from the death penalty.

Hot off a recent and nearly deadly investigation, the women are cautious about putting themselves in peril again. Syd’s spouse isn’t thrilled about another mystery in their lives, either, but he can’t resist the plea of Cathy’s husband. Soon, Syd is leading the way as they tangle with grumpy salespeople, the victim’s estranged husband and boyfriend, a mysterious housekeeper, a litigious customer, an annoyed sheriff and Cathy’s own arrogant lawyer.

The women have their own issues to deal with in their central Florida town of Serendipity Springs. Kat faces a health challenge, Micki fields a mysterious inquiry from her ex, Marianne has a chaotic anniversary and Syd wrestles with her husband over who’s really in charge. But nothing puts everyday life into perspective like the moment when their investigation brings them face to face with danger. 

This cozy mystery, the second of the Mah Jongg Mystery series, features four retired amateur sleuths who live in a small Florida town, all female and all friends who play the game of mah jongg together. Though they don't set out to investigate murder, others have started looking to them to help investigate homicides and questionable accidents. In this story, Sydney Bonner again takes the lead, although her husband, Trip, insists on coming along to protect her. They also turn to their friends for help. Though this series features four protagonists, the others will take the lead in subsequent stories. Two are married, one is divorced and the fourth, who has been single all her life while she tended to her ailing mother, now finds herself the object of the sheriff's attention in this series.

The four don't seek out murder; somehow the circumstances and those affected drag them in. Meanwhile, as they attempt to gather information, life goes on in their community in such activities as a social group for those over 50, numerous stops at the local coffeehouse, and even a shopping trip to Naples. Sydney's husband, Trip, and her friend Marianne Putnam's husband, Beau, are golf buddies who spend many a day on the course. When not there, Trip is busy seeking to build a new post retirement life, and Beau is often prevailed upon to join in Trip's latest activity, which in this book is planning a repositioning cruise. Kat Faulkner has lived a frugal life until winning big in a lottery shortly after her mother's death; suddenly, Kat has money and doesn't know how to spend it. But her divorced friend and freelance writer, Micki Demetrius, does, even if it's to guide Kat through a makeover and wardrobe change for her lounge act.


With Barbara

LKBR:  Thank you for being here today, Barbara!

BB: Thank you for the invitation. I am very pleased with this series, so I enjoy every opportunity to talk about it.

LKBR: Please tell us a bit about your book/series.

BB: The Mah Jongg Mystery series features four senior sleuths who live in the fictional central Florida town of Serendipity Springs. True to the series title, they play mah jongg together weekly and as a result have become good friends. They also have a knack for getting involved, unofficially, of course, in certain murder investigations related to some of their mah jongg friends. All four are the protagonists. In the first two books, Sydney Bonner, is the “lead”; in Bamboozled, her husband, Trip, partners up with her, despite his earlier objections to being involved in such dangerous business. In future books, others in the group will be featured.

LKBR: How did you come up with the concept?

BB: They say, “write what you know.” This is one instance in which I followed that advice. Most cozies feature a hook or premise for the series. I wanted something I both knew and that little had been written about. That’s why I turned to mah jongg. I started playing the game nine years ago as a way to meet people in my new home town. I laughed at myself at the time, because until then I’d thought of it as an old ladies’ game and I certainly didn’t fall in that category…yet. But once I learned the basics, I fell in love with it. I’ve been playing it ever since, often two times a week. I wanted to come up with a way to incorporate women amateur sleuths, so when the time came for me to set my writing of contemporary romances aside to write cozy mysteries, this all came together.

Each book title uses a mah jongg term. There are three suits of tiles: craks, bamboo, and dots, thus the title for this second book.

LKBR: What are your future plans for this series? Any hints or spoilers you can give us about the next book?

BB: Right now, my plans are to finish Book 3 in the series and then take a break to return to my UnderWright Productions romance series and finish Books 4 and 5 of that. Once that is accomplished, I will take stock of my writing career and decide where I want to go from there. I love this mah jongg series, so the most likely future direction will be to keep writing it. I love these four characters, and there is so much more to explore with them.

Book 3, Connect the Dots, is partially written. Once again, it is about the death of someone close to one of their mah jongg buddies. This time a son. Micki Demetrius takes the lead in this one, although the other three are there assisting her. The premise behind this book is a condo in a new development that wasn’t finished properly and the owner’s quest to get those flaws repaired after she has taken occupancy.

LKBR: Is writing an energizing experience, or does it take a lot out of you?

BB: Yes and yes. I try to write a little every day. When that isn’t possible, it makes me antsy. I need to be writing. On the other hand, several hours in the chair does take a lot out of me. I try to walk to reenergize in between writing stints. One benefit is that it gives me time to think through where I’ve been and where I want to go with the story.  

LKBR: Once you knew you wanted to be a published writer, who was the first person you reached out to for help? (Such as a publisher, or author)

BB: My husband, because I wanted his support. This undertaking would not only be time-consuming but also costly (I’ve lost track of how many laptops and printers I’ve gone through.) He has been great, especially now that I’m self-publishing and must continue to invest in my work.

The next person was a group, my local chapter of Romance Writers of America, Iowa Romance Novelists. I’d been writing on my own a few years without much success. Once I attended one of their meetings I knew I was home, that these were my people. Through what I learned at their meetings, I was able to hone my craft.

LKBR: What sort of research do you do for your books? Is it more computer based or hands on?

BB: Probably more computer-based with a lot of Internet searches. For Bamboozled, which features the essential oils business, I started there, because I’d never used them. I learned how many different kinds there were from that. Then I discovered that a mah jongg friend sold for one line. I spent time with her learning not only about the oils but also how the business was organized. My daughter helped, too, because she has been using essential oils for some time and is very positive about their effectiveness.

LKBR: What is your writing process? Place, time of day, by the hour or word count?

BB: For my first books, I was so impatient to get going I just started writing. I’d get about three chapters into the book and realize I didn’t know where I was going. By then, though, I was enchanted with my characters, so I had to figure out how to proceed using them. Early in my writing career I discovered Debra Dixon’s Goal, Motivation and Conflict. It was like turning on the lights in a dark room. I realized that, although I had a good feel for my characters, what their story was and where they were going was less defined in my mind. GMC made me stop before I got very far into the story and lay out not only what Point A and Point Z were but also how to go from the first to the end.

So my process starts with the GMC “grid”: what does the character want (Goal), why does she want it? (Motivation), and what is keeping her from getting it? (Conflict). It’s not an easy process for me; it takes several revisions to arrive at the “essence” of my story.

LKBR: How do you come up with character names?

BB: My process for naming characters goes several directions. First, I want the names to be memorable and “easy on the eyes” when reading them. Second, I try to make the character names fitting of that character’s personality. With this series, to me, Sydney is a more powerful name than Marianne or Kat, which is want I intend for these characters. Micki, though also strong, seems a bit more whimsical, and that’s who she is. Sydney and Micki can also be masculine names. Kat’s full name is Katrina, which she uses in her club act and which she is called by her boyfriend. Marianne reflects the promise I made to a good friend to use her name in one of my books; I spelled it differently though, to differentiate between my character and my friend. Third, though I do have a Marianne and a Micki, I try not to have characters whose names start with the same letter or sound alike. Finally, I try not to repeat names from other books, even the secondary characters; the list of names to avoid grows longer with each new book.

LKBR: Is it difficult to write characters of the opposite sex? Do you have someone you use for advice?

BB : It isn’t difficult. Maybe I’m not checking enough. I just write what makes sense to me. On occasion, I may ask my spouse or son for advice but not very often.

LKBR: Do you read reviews of your books? If you do, and a review is bad, what effect does it have on you? (I know some reviews are mean as opposed to constructive.)

BB: I read some but not all, because yes, they do get to me. I don’t need the negative vibes. On the other hand, when there’s a good review, those words stay with me for days and on occasion pop up on my website.

LKBR: What are 3 things readers may not know about you?

BB: 1. I used to sew most of my own clothes, back in the days when I wore mostly dresses and skirts and blouses to work. Last summer, I bought a new sewing machine after using my other one over three decades. I’m still learning how to use all the buttons and whistles, but so far I’ve made several things for my grandchildren and am now working on pillow cases.

2. My son appeared in the movie, “The Bridges of Madison County,” which was shot not too far from our home. Since he was under eighteen, my husband and I got to be on set with him. I got to see Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood up close and in person.

3. I am working on a screenplay adapting my romantic comedy, Driven to Matrimony. Check out my Pinterest page on that book to see who I had in mind for the four roles at one time.

LKBR: Where can readers go to learn more about you and your books?

Subscribe to my cozy mystery newsletter:

LKBR: Thank you so much, Barbara for letting us get to know you better!

BB: And thank you again for providing me with this chance to acquaint your readers with my cozy mysteries. I encourage comments and questions.

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
Amazon     B&N 


June 28 – Valerie's Musings - REVIEW, AUTHOR INTERVIEW
June 28 – Babs Book Bistro - SPOTLIGHT, GIVEAWAY
June 29 – The Power of Words – REVIEW
June 29 – Laura's Interests – REVIEW
June 30 - A Blue Million Books – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
June 30 - The Book Diva's Reads – SPOTLIGHT, GIVEAWAY
July 1 – A Wytch's Book Review Blog - REVIEW, CHARACTER INTERVIEW
July 1 – cherylbbookblog – REVIEW, GIVEAWAY
July 1 – A Holland Reads - SPOTLIGHT
July 2 – Ruff Drafts – GUEST POST
July 2 – My Reading Journeys – REVIEW
July 3 – Teresa Trent Author Blog - CHARACTER GUEST POST, GIVEAWAY
July 3 – Mallory Heart's Cozies – REVIEW
July 4 – Varietats - REVIEW, GUEST POST
July 5 – Mysteries with Character – GUEST POST
July 5 – Island Confidential – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
July 6 – StoreyBook Reviews – GUEST POST
July 6 – Fiction Obsession – REVIEW
July 6 – Christa Reads and Writes - SPOTLIGHT
July 7 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW, GIVEAWAY
July 7 – Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers – SPOTLIGHT
July 8 – Cozy Up With Kathy – REVIEW
July 8 – Lisa Ks Book Review – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

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