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Guest Post & #Giveaway – Connect The Dots by Barbara Barrett @bbarrettbooks #AMahJonggMystery #Cozy

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Connect the Dots
(Mah Jongg Mysteries)
by Barbara Barrett

About the Book

CONNECT THE DOTS

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

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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.

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~ GUEST POST ~

Four years ago, I took a class on writing the one-act play as part of our community’s Lifelong Learning program. It was three sessions long, each session seventy-five minutes. The third week we did a table read of our completed play in front of an audience. In other words, having never done this before, I was still expected to produce a complete one-act within two weeks. At the same time, I had to learn stage terms and playwriting format. I surprised myself by actually completing the assignment.

The typical one-act is ten minutes long. To meet that framework, the plot needs to be simple, one idea stated, developed and concluded within that time. Our instructor also advised limiting the number of speaking parts and keeping stage action to a minimum.

The trick was to quickly decide on a topic and what I wanted to say about it. Also, to determine if I was aiming for drama or comedy?

At that time, I was just starting to conceive my Mah Jongg Mystery series. The only thing I knew then was that I wanted it to feature a small group of retired friends. Why not begin to flesh them out by making them the characters in my play? But I had no idea how I’d present a mystery in so short a space of time, so instead I made them members of a book club who met to discuss their next selection. It was important then as it continues to be as I write each new book in the series to establish unique characters who still mesh with each other as friends.
The exercise turned out to be easier than I thought it would be when I incorporated some of my own personal feelings, creating one character who had difficulties getting her friends’ attention. (Don’t tell my own friends I mentioned this.) She wants the group to pick the book she’s suggesting for the next month’s read. Though they don’t disagree with her, their keep going off topic, exacerbating her presentation and leaving her alone to defend it against another member who typically overrides the others’ suggestions.

As it turned out three years later when I wrote the first book in the series, Craks in a Marriage, the character of Marianne doesn’t have this problem nor do her three cronies tend to wander off the subject. At least, not too often. But writing this play helped me conceptualize these characters. And it was fun. I got a lot of laughs during the table read, always a precious commodity. Had I not been committed to writing novels, I would have tackled yet another one-act just to see if it would also draw chuckles.

The experience also gave me an idea for the newest release in the series, Connect the Dots. The Marianne character (I kept the name from the play), missing the adrenalin rush of solving two murder cases after agreeing to avoid future such involvements, feels lost and seeks more excitement in her life. She winds up taking a class on writing one-act plays after sitting in at the table read for a friend’s play and thoroughly enjoys herself. Unlike me, she continues to write more plays after her first time out. In fact, this plot line continues in my next book in the series, yet unnamed. Marianne is the lead character in that one.

A little bit of real life is also reflected in the way Marianne’s husband and friends quiz her about which character is based on them after seeing her play. That was somewhat the case for me when the first Mah Jongg book came out last year. Like Marianne, I found myself continually repeating that the characters are an amalgamation of several people coupled with my own imagination and are not based on any one person.

Exactly where her playwriting will lead in the next book, I can’t say until I finish it. But since I consider it an integral part of the plot, it’s a pretty good bet I’ll somehow use it to help her and her friends wrap the case.

About The Author

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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.

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by Barbara Barrett

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2 thoughts on “Guest Post & #Giveaway – Connect The Dots by Barbara Barrett @bbarrettbooks #AMahJonggMystery #Cozy”

  1. Thank you for the opportunity to bring “Connect the Dots” to your readers’ attention. It was fun to talk about my experience writing a one-act play. Tomorrow I’ll get to hear the results of this semester’s class. Looking forward to it.

    Barbara

    Like

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