Going on Blog Tour

Join me and the bloggers who are part of the Great Escapes Book Blog Tour starting October 24 to promote Beware the East Wind, the fourth book in the Mah Jongg Mystery series. I will post the link each day on my Facebook page, http://bit.ly/2aXZvG9

October 24 – I’m All About Books – SPOTLIGHT
October 24 – Ascroft, eh? – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
October 25 – I Read What You Write – GUEST POST
October 25 – A Wytch’s Book Review Blog – REVIEW, CHARACTER INTERVIEW
October 26 – Here’s How It Happened – SPOTLIGHT
October 26 – Diane Reviews Books – GUEST POST
October 27 – Cozy Up With Kathy – REVIEW
October 27 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW
October 28 – Hearts & Scribbles – SPOTLIGHTS
October 28 – eBook Addicts – SPOTLIGHT
October 29 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – GUEST POST
October 29 – Mysteries with Character – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
October 30 – My Reading Journeys – REVIEW
October 30 – Literary Gold – SPOTLIGHT
October 30 – Island Confidential – SPOTLIGHT
October 31 – The Book Diva’s Reads – CHARACTER GUEST POST
October 31 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
November 1 – A Blue Million Books – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
November 1 – LibriAmoriMiei – REVIEW
November 1 – Readeropolis – GUEST POST
November 2 – fundinmental – SPOTLIGHT
November 2 – MJB Reviewers – SPOTLIGHT

Plotting Murder Giveaway


Beautiful woman in a dress holding a gun in her hand. View from the back.

Mystery, Thriller & Romantic Suspense
August 9-29

Kindle Fire 7 • Amazon Gift Cards • Ebook Packs • More Prizes




Plotting Murder Mystery, Thriller & Romantic Suspense Giveaway

How would you like to read that next bestseller on a Kindle Fire 7 tablet? Win an Amazon gift card, a cool lamp that opens like a book, or a pack of ebooks on your TBR list? Enter August 9-29 and you could decide which books we’ll buy for you from millions on Amazon.

Plus, don’t forget to shop our book fair and play the bonus scavenger hunt game, where we have a tea and brownie brittle bonus prize pack up for grabs. Plus, everyone scores a freebie, a short story download by C.J. Zahner exclusive to this event!

Plotting Murder Mystery, Thriller, and Romantic Suspense Book Fair

Rendezvous with Readers


barb with fan

Barbara Stewart, avid Mah Jongg player

For an author new to a genre like cozy mysteries, I’ve discovered one of the best ways to connect with readers and find new ones is reader conferences. This spring, I attended two such confabs. This post is about Left Coast Crime, which took place March 28-31 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The location was an incentive for me to venture out of the country on my own for the first time. After working my way through Customs, the rest of my journey was a breeze.

barb with Pamela Beason

Pamela Beason, my author speed dating partner

I was fortunate enough to be asked to participate on both an author panel and a “speed dating” event where authors were allowed two minutes to pitch their work at eighteen tables of readers and other participants. I was paired with Pamela Beason, a suspense author, as we made our way around the room. The organizers of this event were quite serious about the two-minute format per author, ringing a bell when each author’s time was up. I quickly learned to zero in on the high points and skip describing the plot in any detail.

This speed dating event is a great opportunity to get your swag in front of potential readers. Most authors shared bookmarks or business cards or candy. To promote Connect the Dots, the newest release in my Mah Jongg Mystery series, I gave away post cards with the cover on the front, my contact information on the back AND, here’s the kicker, a mini-box of Dots, the candy, attached. From a conceptual perspective, it truly was inspired. From a functional standpoint, not so much. First, I had to travel with 150 mini boxes of the candy plus that many postcards; you wouldn’t believe how heavy that candy was. Next, I had to make sure I could get it through Customs, so I had to research what I could bring into the country. Finally, I had to put them together once I got there, a time-consuming task. barb with fan 2

barb with fan 4

Fan, Connie Gilman

But that was only the beginning. Since I was staying in a hotel a block away from the conference hotel, I had to devise a way to transport my goodies. It took two full book bags. Then I had to lug them to each table and distribute them (I left one bag on the sidelines until needed). To my dismay, many of the participants immediately ripped the boxes from the card, ate the candy and maybe kept the card. I’ll file that one under the next-time-I’ll know-better category. Still, I had a great time.

Even though the moderator for the Cozy Mystery panel, Susan C. Shea, susancshea.com, had sent each of the participants the questions in advance, I was nervous beforehand. We were the last panel on the Saturday afternoon schedule. I worried that attendance would suffer; participants were probably resting before that night’s banquet or off sightseeing. I was pleasantly surprised that the room was almost full. There are a lot of cozy mystery fans out there, and I love them all. I thoroughly enjoyed connecting with the audience. Panel participants included: Julia Henry/J.A. Hennrikus, jhauthors.com, Janice Peacock, janicepeacock.com, and Angela M. Sanders, angelamsanders.com.

barb with Cindy Sample 2

Author Cindy Sample

Besides the opportunity to meet readers, the conference also afforded me the chance to network with other authors who write in this genre.Mary Lee Ashford

The Left Coast Crime conference changes locations every year. It will be held in San Diego, California in 2020. I’m already planning to be there!


Connect the Dots Blog Tour

I hope you’ll join me on my Great Escape Virtual Book Tour starting April 16, 2019 to promote Connect the Dots, the third book in my Mah Jongg Mysteries series. The tour will include reviews, spotlights, original articles I’ve written and a character interview. The schedule is listed below. You can catch the link each day on my Facebook page, http://bit.ly/2aXZvG9.


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 24 – StoreyBook Reviews – GUEST POST
April 25 – Cozy Up With Kathy – REVIEW, CHARACTER GUEST POST

Mah Jongg at the Movies

mah-jong table game

I was on the fence about whether to see the new film, “Crazy Rich Asians,” based on the book of the same name by Kevin Kwan. Then I heard there was a mah jongg scene in it. That decided me. I even arranged a movie night with my mah jongg buddies so we could all view it together. Since I hadn’t read the book, I only had an idea what the story was about based on trailers I’d seen. What a delightful surprise! Not only was it a classic romantic comedy (boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy and girl reunite), it also featured incredible views of Singapore and more glitz than Oscar night in Hollywood. The cast was superb.

But as the film drew to a close, my friends and I whispered to each other, “What happened to the mah jongg scene?”

Little did we know that it would be a pivotal point in story where the girl challenges the boy’s mother, who is opposed to the girl marrying her son, to a game of mah jongg. Although two other women were part of the game, they had no lines. Thank goodness they played with the tiles I’m used to (more or less, they were slightly larger and no tile bore a number), because their version of the game differed considerably otherwise. Still, we were able to follow what was happening: (spoiler alert) at one point, the girl draws the winning tile but discards it instead, so the mother can win. The game represents their test of wills.

There’s very little running commentary on the game for the uninitiated. The scene spoke for itself. How brilliant to utilize the game begun in China in the late 1800s as the turning point in this film that takes place in Singapore.

White-green tiles for mahjong on a brown wooden background. No empty place.

I, too, use the game of mah jongg in my stories. The four protagonists of the Mah Jongg Mysteries are aficionados of the game and play together each week, when they’re not investigating the latest murder in the central Florida town of Serendipity Springs. I’m so pleased to see the game appearing elsewhere.

On Tour Again

I am joining the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour on June 28 to promote Bamboozled, the second book in my Mah Jongg Mysteries series. The schedule follows below. My tour includes several original blog articles I’ve written, interviews, even a character interview and reviews from others. Each day, I’ll be posting the specific site(s) where I can be found that day on my Facebook page, but if you don’t receive it, feel free to return here.

Most of these appearances include a lot of information besides the featured piece, like my bio or the blurb for the book. But if, after reading that stuff, you scroll down to the bottom, you’ll see a comments section. If so moved, I hope you’ll leave one, just so I know others are finding these articles and learning more about me and the book.

I’m building a reader list for my newsletter. If you haven’t already subscribed, I hope you’ll do so. Just click on https://www.subscribepage.com/BBCozies.

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

Switching from Romance to Mysteries

My mah jongg group recently started playing a new version of the game they called “Switcheroo.” It involves playing one game of the National version, which includes Jokers, and then switching to the Wright-Patterson version for the next game, then back to National and so forth. In a nutshell, it sort of describes the mental exercise I’ve experienced since putting the writing of more romance novels on hold temporarily while writing my first cozy mystery.

Both National and Wright-Patterson versions involve many of the same knowledges and skill sets: with the exception of the added Jokers in National, the same tiles; the same set-up and many of the same procedures; the same terms; and many of the same strategies. But they also differ in the value assigned the various tiles, the hands, and like I’ve already said, the inclusion or exclusion of the Jokers makes a huge difference.

Changing from writing romance to cozy mysteries has been similar. The mechanics of writing are virtually the same: spelling, punctuation and grammar. Setting, character development and dialogue are still important. Voice, too, still needs to be unique and to set the tone. Goal, motivation and conflict still establish the framework.

Where the two genres differ is their focus. In romance, the heroine and hero find each other, almost lose each other and then find each other again for the happy ending. Though everyone knows there will be a happily ever after, the writer’s challenge is to make the reader wonder if this time will be the exception with all the obstacles thrown at her couple. In the mystery, there is not necessarily a hero and heroine nor sometimes even a happy ending even when the mystery is solved. But unless the murderer is pure evil, which would be a different mystery genre than a cozy, they can still be sympathetic. They simply got caught up in circumstances they couldn’t avoid. It is the writer’s challenge to make them human and understandable even though guilty.

In the romance, much of the set-up deals with the conflict that is keeping the couple apart. It needs to be credible and something that can’t be readily resolved. In the mystery, the set-up can come before or after the murder occurs. Either way, the conflict is the victim’s impact or control over several individuals, one or more of whom resolve it by murder.

The most obvious difference between the two is the lack of love scenes in the cozy, although that’s not entirely true. Cozy characters can love or be in love; but that’s not the central theme. And a romance could conceivably include a murder, although it’s also not the central theme.

The biggest challenge of the cozy mystery? Deciding on a victim. It sounded so easy when I first began, but it required developing a reason why in the murderer’s mind the victim had to be eliminated. The issue between them could be resolved in no other way. Or, at least it had to seem that way to the murderer. The second challenge was coming up with more than one person who could have been driven to murder, so my sleuths would have more than one suspect to uncover. The most difficult challenge? Not making the murderer obvious.

Craks in a Marriage has now been out for over a month. I just finished my first blog tour. At the end of April, I will be attending the “Malice Domestic” conference in Bethesda, Maryland to both sign this book and participate on a panel discussion of senior sleuths. The second book in the series, Bamboozled, will be coming out in April. I’m feeling progressively more comfortable in this genre.

P.S. I love the graphic above. I tried to figure out how to incorporate it into a cover. Maybe someday.