Posted in Author Spotlight, Blog Tour, Cozy Mystery

Author Interview of Victoria Gilbert, Author of Shelved Under Murder, A Blue Ridge Library Mystery

I’m pleased to have author Victoria Gilbert from North Carolina here to speak about her writing and new release, Shelved Under Murder, that is on blog tour with Escape with Dollycas into a Good Book.

Welcome, Victoria. Please tell us how long you’ve been published and what titles and/or series you write.

My first book, CROWN OF ICE, written as Vicki L. Weavil, was published in Sept. 2014. It is a fantasy – actually a fairytale retelling of H. C. Andersen’s The Snow Queen. I republished that title, as well as its companion title, SCEPTER OF FIRE – a “mash-up” retelling of Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling and The Steadfast Tin Soldier – as books one and two in the Mirror of Immortality Series in the spring of 2017 with my self-publishing co-op, Snowy Wings Publishing.

I also had a YA scifi – FACSIMILE, written as Vicki L. Weavil — that was published in 2016, but that book is currently out-of-print.

My first mystery, which was written as Victoria Gilbert, is A MURDER FOR THE BOOKS. It was published in December 2017 by Crooked Lane Books.

Very nice. It’s great that you’re experienced writing different genres.

Tell us a little bit about your books — if you write a series, any upcoming releases or your current work-in-progress. If you have an upcoming release, please specify the release date.

The Blue Ridge Library Mystery series is a three-book series. (It may include additional books, but I’m waiting to hear about that).

Book One, A MURDER FOR THE BOOKS, was published in hardback and eBook by Crooked Lane Books on December 12, 2017. The audiobook version from Tantor Media released in April, and the paperback edition was published by Crooked Lane on June 12th.

Book Two, SHELVED UNDER MURDER, was published in hardback and eBook by Crooked Lane – along with the audiobook from Tantor – on July 10th. The paperback edition will release in Jan. 2019.

Book Three, PAST DUE FOR MURDER, will be published in hardback and eBook by Crooked Lane in Feb. 2019, along with its accompanying audiobook from Tantor. There will also be a paperback edition that will be published later.

These sound like great books. As a librarian and also an author of a series featuring a librarian, I think I’d enjoy reading these.

Describe your goals as a writer. What do you hope to achieve in the next few years? What are you planning to do to reach these goals?

I simply want to keep writing until the day I die. Hopefully that will include publication of all the books I write! Over the next few years I hope to develop, write, and publish additional cozy and/or light mysteries, as well as to continue my current series (if my publisher requests more books). To accomplish that goal, I plan to write at least two books a year, work on enhancing my promotional efforts, attend pertinent conferences and conventions, and keep improving my craft.

Those are great goals. I’d love to meet you at a conference one day.

What type of reader are you hoping to attract?  Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?

As I am a very eclectic reader myself, I would be happy to attract anyone who enjoys reading.

As far as who might be most interested in my books, I would say anyone who likes cozy or light mysteries, anyone interested in a small-town setting in a mystery, anyone who enjoys some (clean) romance in their books, and anyone who likes historical mysteries mixed in with contemporary crime-solving.

Now I’m sure I’d be interested in your books.

What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?

Experiment and try new things, especially if you are feeling “stuck” or unfulfilled with where you are now. I started out in one genre, and while I did get published in that genre, I discovered that my real strengths as a writer lay elsewhere. Experimenting with writing mysteries, a genre I always loved but wasn’t certain I could write successfully, opened up a new world to me. I learned that my style and interests fit the mystery genre – something I would never have known if I hadn’t attempted to write in a new and different genre.

That’s a great tip.

What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?

To be honest, I faced more challenges AFTER being first published than before. I really don’t wish to go into details about that, but I will say that all my experiences have taught me a great deal about the publishing business, which I think is always beneficial.

I feel the same. You learn so much after you publish. It’s like on-the-job training compared to going to school.

Do you belong to any writing groups? Which ones?

I am a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, and Mystery Writers of America. I am also involved in my local Sisters in Crime chapter, Murder We Write.

You belong to most of my own groups except for Mystery Writers of America and the Murder We Write chapter of Sisters in Crime. I joined the Guppie chapter because I don’t have an agent or large publisher yet. I may look into the Murder We Write chapter, too, if I’m eligible to be a member.

What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?

I love reading, of course. I also enjoy gardening, walking, traveling, drawing and painting, listening to music, attending theatre and dance performances, and watching films.

You have a nice variety of interests that I’m sure also help you with your writing.

What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?

What I like most is the creative process and bringing my characters to life. I also enjoy developing plots and honing my words into something that can make me feel proud. (Even though my writing is never perfect and I am still learning). In addition, I love hearing from readers who have enjoyed my books.

My toughest challenge, and what I like least, is promotion. I am not a natural salesperson so dealing with the marketing aspects of the business are much more of a challenge for me than the creative side.

I think most writers feel the same. I know I do.

What do you like about writing cozy mysteries?

As someone who is not fond of reading books that include graphic violence, language, or sex, I enjoy writing in a genre that doesn’t include those things. I also enjoy being able to focus on characters and everyday life while still being able to include action and adventure. In addition, cozies are fun – something I think we need more of in this world.

I totally agree. As a librarian, even though I need to order books that contain the elements you mentioned, I steer away from them for my own reading because I find they detract from the plot.

Can you share a short excerpt from your latest title or upcoming release?

From: SHELVED UNDER MURDER by Victoria Gilbert:

The rest of the body was revealed as we stepped around the table. Crumpled on her side, with her knees drawn up in a defensive posture, was a middle-aged woman. Her eyes were closed and her thin face partially veiled by locks of curly dark hair. I gripped Richard’s fingers tighter. As my mind attempted to process the scene, I noticed that the fingertips of the artist’s other hand brushed a palette knife that glistened as if it had been soaked in the oil and wiped clean.

The woman lay there so quietly, it was as if she were merely napping. For a moment I could imagine her grasping the knife and rising to her feet to resume work on the canvas sitting on the easel. But the crimson stains blossoming like roses against her white painter’s smock told another story.

Rachel LeBlanc would not finish her latest work. In fact, she would never complete a painting again.

Intriguing excerpt. Thank you.

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you or your books?

I would like them to know that I am happy to engage with readers on social media or via my website contact form and would also love to talk to them if we meet at any conferences, signings, or related events. So readers – don’t hesitate to connect with me!

I’m adding your social media links below to help readers find you and also the rafflecopter link to your blog tour. Thanks again for the interview, and I wish you the best of luck on your new release and future books and series.


Facebook author page:





Posted in Cozy Mysteries, Dogs, New Releases

Spotlight for Disorderly Conduct (A Maggie McDonald Mystery) by Mary Feliz

Disorderly Conduct (A Maggie McDonald Mystery)
by Mary Feliz

About the Book

Disorderly Conduct (A Maggie McDonald Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
4th in Series
Lyrical Underground (July 10, 2018)
Print Length: 233 pages

Professional organizer Maggie McDonald manages to balance a fastidious career with friends, family, and a spunky Golden Retriever. But add a fiery murder mystery to the mix, and Maggie wonders if she’s finally found a mess even she can’t tidy up . . .

With a devastating wildfire spreading to Silicon Valley, Maggie preps her family for a rapid evacuation. The heat rises when firefighters discover the body of her best friend Tess Olmos’s athletic husband—whose untimely death was anything but accidental. And as Tess agonizes over the whereabouts of her spouse’s drop-dead gorgeous running mate, she becomes the prime suspect in what’s shaping up to become a double murder case. Determined to set the record straight, Maggie sorts through clues in an investigation more dangerous than the flames approaching her home. But when her own loved ones are threatened, can she catch the meticulous killer before everything falls apart?

About the Author

Mary Feliz writes the Maggie McDonald Mysteries featuring a Silicon Valley professional organizer and her sidekick golden retriever. She’s worked for Fortune 500 firms and mom and pop enterprises competed in whaleboat races and done synchronized swimming. She attends organizing conferences in her character’s stead, but Maggie’s skills leave her in the dust.

Author Links:




Twitter: @maryfelizauthor


Purchase Links:

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July 10 – cherylbbookblog – SPOTLIGHT

July 11 – The Power of Words – REVIEW

July 12 – Reading Authors – SPOTLIGHT

July 12 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

July 13 – The Avid Reader – REVIEW

July 13 – Babs Book Bistro – GUEST POST

July 14 – Christa Reads and Writes – REVIEW


July 15 – Cozy Up With Kathy – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

July 16 – Bibliophile Reviews – REVIEW

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July 18 – Ruff Drafts – SPOTLIGHT

July 19 – Devilishly Delicious Book Reviews – REVIEW

July 19 – A Blue Million Books – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

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July 21 – The Montana Bookaholic – REVIEW, GUEST POST

July 21 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – SPOTLIGHT

July 22 – My Reading Journeys – REVIEW

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Posted in Travel/Conferences

Revisiting Chicago after Twenty-Six Years!

The first trip my husband and I took together was to Chicago, Illinois in March 1992 for my Public Library Association Conference. We stayed at the Palmer House Hilton, an historic downtown hotel. When I found out that my husband was going to attend a conference for his employer in Chicago this July, I asked to go along with him. I thought it would be fun to see the city after twenty-six years. I dug out our old photo album and some of the scanned photos I’d kept and planned to try to locate some of the sights and exhibits he and I had posed by on our first trip. I knew that some of them would be gone and replaced by new attractions and places, and I hoped to include some of those, too, for making our new memories.

It was nice that I was able to book the same hotel, the Palmer House, that we’d stayed in on our first visit. While the rooms were different, the main lobby and the gold elevator doors were the same.

When we visited the Museum of Science and Industry, most of the exhibits had changed. However, the Main Street area featured two spots I’d posed by in the past.  Although we couldn’t reach the top of the museum’s entrance, Anthony posed in front of the stairs where he’d stood twenty-six years ago.




A mystery site that I identified by accident was a golden peacock door. When I posed by it in ’92, it was inside the Palmer House. When we found it in 2018, it was outside a few buildings before the hotel.

While on our trip, we also visited the Willis Tower that was called the Sears Tower in ’92. We were told that residents still refer to it by its original name. The tower has added some new attractions to the 103rd-floor skydeck. In addition to an incredible view of several states, there is now an opportunity to stand on a glass-enclosed ledge if you dare. We did and got some great photos.

Something new (but not not new in Chicago) that we tried was a dinner theater called Tommy Gun’s Garage where we had a great meal and were treated to an entertaining musical show with flappers and gangsters. We also had the chance to pose with a gangster.

While Anthony was in his conference, I took a mini bus tour led by See It All Tours that was a great introduction to the various parts of the city. The tour made stops at the Rookery Building, The Chicago Cultural Center that was once the main public library, and a perfect spot for a photo op of the skyline on Lakewood Drive. As part of an add-on to this tour, I was able to take an architectural cruise led by Shoreline Sightseeing that was a great way to view Chicago’s buildings.

After the cruise, I took a convenient water taxi to Navy Pier where I had a pleasant lunch outdoors at Harry Caray’s Tavern and then shopped until my packages were too heavy to hold.

Of course, a trip to Chicago, isn’t complete without seeing Millennium Park. It wasn’t there in ’92, and my husband both enjoyed strolling through it after dinner one night. Someone offered to take our photo near the famous Cloud Gate or “Bean,” and it was delightful walking through the flowered paths and seeing the kids playing in the water near Crown Fountain. I even took a photo of the lips opening to spray water.

Another attraction that wasn’t around when we visited twenty-six years ago was the American Writers Museum. As a librarian and author, I knew I had to check it out and wasn’t disappointed. The exhibits were wonderful and very interactive. I even had a chance to type on an “antique” typewriter.

Our last evening was magical as we spent it at the Magic Parlour, entertained by magician Dennis Watkins.

Last but not least on our city agenda was dining. Chicago is famous for its great food, and I had to forget about my diet while I indulged in some special meals and desserts.

At The Berghoff, a popular and historic German restaurant, I was able to have my favorite cake — Black Forest. At the Palmer House Lockwood Restaurant, I sampled Bertha’s Brownies (the Brownie was created in the Palmer House kitchen at the direction of Bertha Palmer to be served at the Columbian Exposition World Fair in 1893). After visiting the Art Institute, I also had a nice lunch at the Russian Tea Room across from the museum. And, because you can’t leave Chicago without deep dish pizza, I picked up one at O’Hare’s Pizzeria Uno counter along with a Chicago-style hot dog for my husband before we boarded our flight home.

Posted in Cozy Mystery, Mysteries, New Releases, Thriller

Two New Mysteries at Surprising Prices

If you like cozies: 

Who killed library patron, Mr. Small?

When librarian Eugenia Pratt finds the body of a patron in the archives, she employs the help of Agatha, the library’s cat, to ferret out a clue to who-dun-it.

If you like 

With Friends Like These…

When Susan Drummond accompanies her husband, Ray, to his cabin where he goes to get away from it all and write, her friends and father become concerned that she isn’t answering her cell phone. They all decide to check in on her and find no trace of her or Ray except a newly dug grave.

Maybe you like both? They’re free on KindleUnlimited or only 99 cents each on Amazon. 

Posted in Author Spotlight, Blog Tour, Cozy Mystery

Author Spotlight of Paige Sleuth, Author of Murder in the Cards, the first Psychic Poker Pro Mystery

I’m pleased to have author Paige Sleuth (Marla Bradeen) here to speak about her writing and new release, Murder in the Cards: a Psychic Poker Pro Mystery that is on blog tour with Escape with Dollycas Into a Good Book.

Hi, Paige. Please tell us about yourself, where you live, how long you’ve been published, and what titles and/or series you write.

My real name is Marla Bradeen. I have books published under both my name and as Paige Sleuth. Paige is much more ambitious and popular than me, so these days I focus on her works.I live in Las Vegas, Nevada (USA), where it is HOT this time of year. But triple-digit temperatures just give me an extra excuse to stay inside and read! I have written 31 books, all of which are self-published. I published my first book in March 2013, a chick-lit mystery called Lethal Injection. After that, I wrote a handful of other standalone novels that came out over the next two and a half years, all published under my own name. Then, in August 2015, I published my first book as Paige Sleuth. It was a cozy mystery centered around cats called Murder in Cherry Hills. That was my first Cozy Cat Caper Mystery book, and my first attempt at writing a series. At the time, I figured I’d be lucky if I could come up with 12 books. I was positive I’d be completely out of ideas by book 15. I was convinced there would be absolutely no way I would ever make it to 20 books. Fast-forward to 2018, and I now have 22 Cozy Cat Caper Mystery books with no plan to end the series anytime soon.

Wow! That’s quite a publishing record. About your Cozy Cat Caper mysteries, I’m surprised I haven’t heard of them. I’m a big cat mystery fan and also write a cozy series (up to Book 4 right now) that features a library cat, Sneaky. He even has his own blog where he interviews pet characters. I think he’d like to interview one of your cats.

Tell us  more about your books.

The Cozy Cat Caper Mystery series stars Katherine (aka “Kat”) Harper and her two rescue cats, Matty and Tom. Kat somehow always finds herself involved in the latest crime to hit Cherry Hills, Washington, the small town where she lives. Luckily she has Matty and Tom around. Sometimes they help Kat solve the crime, sometimes they help her escape from danger, and sometimes they’re just there for moral support. Kat, Matty, and Tom are like family to me, and I love visiting with them in each new story. But just like with real families, sometimes you need a break from each other. To that end, last year I started brainstorming ideas for another series. That was when I came up with the Psychic Poker Pro Mystery series starring professional poker player Tiffany Swanson. Murder in the Cards is her first book, and although Tiffany only has one adventure to brag about right now, I’m hoping many more are in her future!

Judging from the success of your cat cozy series, I’m sure this will be a long-running one.

Describe your goals as a writer. What do you hope to achieve in the next few years? What are you planning to do to reach these goals?

My only real goal is to create stories that are enjoyable and entertaining. I don’t have a publishing schedule, or deadlines, or any type of real marketing plan. I know that makes me a terrible small business owner (which is really what us writers are), but I find all that to be really stressful so I don’t do it. Instead, I tend to work on whatever I feel like working on. I can go months at a time without writing, and some weeks I write every day. I guess you could say my personal goal is to just keep on writing for as long as I enjoy it, and if it ever loses its appeal to find something else I love.

Interesting attitude. I agree with you that the writing business can be quite stressful, so it’s important to enjoy the process.

What type of reader are you hoping to attract?  Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?

Paige Sleuth’s Cozy Cat Caper Mystery series is geared toward cat-loving mystery fans who enjoy light, clean reads. The Psychic Poker Pro Mystery series is actually geared toward the same type of reader, although cats won’t feature as prominently in my new series. But Tiffany is on the verge of realizing that the alley cat named Amber who she’s taken in “temporarily” is about to become a permanent fixture. Both series are intended to be fun and humorous. Kat is a little more serious than Tiffany, and Tiffany is a little more sarcastic than Kat, but I hope readers embrace them both and come to love them as much as I do.

Your books sound like ones I would enjoy. I’ve found that if you like your characters, they will be appealing to readers.

What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?

Mainly, keep writing and never give up. Also, find ways to connect with other authors, whether it be on social media or by joining local writers’ groups. Your fellow authors are invaluable sources of advice and support. And you’ll soon find out that most of us struggle with the same things.

That’s very true. I’ve found so much support in the writing community.

What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?

I actually finished my first book, The Amicable Divorce, in 2004. That one took me two years to write, mostly because I didn’t know what I was doing and had a pesky job that ate up a lot of my time. Back then self-publishing wasn’t really an option unless you planned to sell books out of your car trunk. So I did the typical query route in search of a literary agent. Nothing can kill your motivation more quickly than receiving rejection after rejection or, worse, being flat out ignored. I finally gave up querying in 2006. I still wrote off and on, but I didn’t pick it up seriously again until 2012, when I quit my job and needed something to do. Lucky for me, by then ebooks had taken off, and self-publishing had boomed. If you had told me in 2006 that one day I would be glad I’d never found an agent, I wouldn’t have believed you. But now, looking back, I’m so pleased things worked out the way they did.

My first book, Cloudy Rainbow, was self-published in 2008, but I didn’t do it myself. I used a self-publishing company. I’m actually reprinting that book soon with better edits with my current publisher. Although I no longer self publish, I haven’t given up and am still querying agents because I’d love to be published with a large publisher. Your story is a good example of the theme of my first Cobble Cove mystery that things happen for a reason or don’t happen for a reason, as in your case.

Do you belong to any writing groups? Which ones?

I do not belong to any writing groups. However, I belong to a lot of author groups on Facebook, and we all share advice and experiences. The author community is one of the best, and one I’m so happy to be a part of.

Yes, social media has done a great deal for authors.

What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?

Well, my number one hobby would be reading. I could read all day, every day if given the chance. But I’ve been told it’s good to get out of the house every now and then, so, like Tiffany, I play poker on occasion. And now that I have a series featuring a poker player, I figure I can write off any losses as business expenses (don’t tell my accountant).

Lol. As a librarian, I’ve always been a big reader, but it’s hard finding the time now that I write.

What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?

I probably enjoy the marketing part the least. Getting the word out about my books is definitely the toughest challenge, especially since I’m not someone who really enjoys going on and on about themselves. Although, writing in general can be pretty painful, and depending on when you ask me I might hate it all. But the absolute best part of being an author, hands down, is interacting with readers. There is nothing better than getting a note from a stranger who has read and loved one of your books. I’ve met some wonderful people through my books, and I treasure their support and friendship.

I feel exactly the same way.

What do you like about writing cozy mysteries?

Most of all, I love the characters in cozy mysteries. They’re often quirky, and it can be a lot of fun to see what they do next. Often they start to take control after I’ve gotten their personalities fleshed out, and watching them mold my stories into something bigger and better than I imagined is a wonderful thing to witness.

That’s true for me, too.

Can you share a short excerpt from your latest title or upcoming release?

I’d love to! Here’s a snippet from Murder in the Cards, when Tiffany first discovers she’s telepathic:I walked out of the bathroom, running smack-dab into the guy from my table who had smiled at me earlier.

“Oomph.” The air rushed out of my lungs as I collided with his hard chest.

He grabbed my arms. “You okay?”

“I’m fine.” I steadied myself. “Sorry about that.”

Now that I’d regained my footing, I expected him to let go. Instead, he kept his palms on my arms, his eyes fixed on mine. My heart sank, and I mentally prayed he wouldn’t ask me out. He was attractive enough, with thick brown hair, blue eyes, and a full, warm smile, but I didn’t get involved with out-of-towners. Too much heartache when they returned home to the wives and girlfriends they had never bothered to mention.

Not that I would have any experience with that.

I was about to wiggle free of his hold, but at that exact moment my skin started tingling and my vision blurred. An image of a man sprawled atop a sea of plush white carpet flashed through my head. The blood-red stains splashed across the front of the man’s torso and staining the carpet around him formed a picture vivid enough to make me gasp. I groped for something steady to lean against as nausea surged through me. Somehow I made it to the wall. I collapsed against it and bit my tongue hard, hoping I didn’t retch.

“Hey, you okay?”

I was vaguely aware of the handsome stranger gripping my elbow as he said the words, but my throat was too tight to respond. My pulse was pounding so hard I could feel it in my temples.

“Let’s get you seated.”

I let him guide me over to a bank of slot machines, then fell into one of the chairs like a sack of potatoes. The image had faded, but the emotions it had stirred up still lingered.

The man took the seat next to me. “You feeling all right?”

I blinked, unsure how to respond. Did I feel all right?

“I can call somebody for you, if you’d like,” he offered. “Or flag down security.” He perked up, clearly buoyed by the possibility of pawning me off on someone else.

Evidently I no longer needed to worry about fending off the guy’s advances.

“I’m okay,” I told him. “I just felt a little woozy there for a second.”

Out came that friendly smile again. “Glad to hear it. You went really pale.”

“I’m not really sure what happened. I had this vision of someone, a guy. He was lying on this white carpet, and there was blood everywhere.” I clamped my mouth shut, not sure what had compelled me to explain myself to a stranger.

The man’s face went slack. “What?”

I shook my head. “It was nothing, just something that popped into my head. I probably saw it on one of the television monitors hanging in the poker room.” Now that I had my bearings back, I was embarrassed I’d even brought it up.

My explanation didn’t seem to offer the man any comfort. He gripped the side of the slot machine and pulled his body to the edge of his seat, his knees grazing my thighs. “What exactly did you see?”

I angled away from him. “Just some guy.”

“Describe him.”

The urgency in his voice took me aback. Although I didn’t care to dwell on this topic any longer, I figured I owed him some explanation after he had been nice enough not to abandon me when I had been on the verge of passing out.

“He had brown hair, kind of like yours,” I began. “And his eyes were the same blue as yours.” When the man sucked air through his teeth, I rushed to add, “Except it wasn’t you.”

“My brother.”

His words came out garbled, and it took me a second to decode what he’d said. When I did, my heart stopped beating. “Your brother?”

The man nodded, his movements rigid and mechanical. “My older brother. Randy. That was his name. He was killed, murdered.”

Thank you. Well written.

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you or your books?

Yes! Right now I’m running a “Buy in July” promotion where $1 from every Paige Sleuth book purchase made in July (excluding ebook purchases of Murder in Cherry Hills) will be donated to the Community Cat Coalition of Clark County (C5). C5 helps to curb the cat overpopulation problem (and therefore the number of cats euthanized) in the Las Vegas area by spay/neutering ferals.

I’m definitely interested in supporting that. I believe strongly in cat causes, and I know many of my followers do.

Please list your social media links, website, blog, etc. and include some book cover graphics and author photos if possible.

Author Links (for Paige Sleuth):






I’ll connect with you. Thanks so much for the interview, and best wishes on your new series and blog tour. Here’s a link to your rafflecopter that readers may wish to enter:


Posted in Cozy Mystery, Guest Post

Guest Post and Blog Tour for Bamboozled by Barbara Barrett

This post was contributed by author Barbara Barrett. Her cozy mystery, Bamboozled, is currently on tour with Escape with Dollycas into a Good Book.

Mah Jongg Etiquette

The Mah Jongg Mystery series features four friends who play the game weekly and somehow wind up investigating murders that involve their friends, usually fellow mah jongg players. Part of each story includes actual game play to lend credibility. (They say write what you know, so as an avid addict of the game, that’s what I did. I have played the game for over nine years.)

Over time, one develops a set of expectations about the game in addition to the actual rules. Ways of playing that respect other players and tend to reduce misunderstandings. For this article, I am referring to these as mah jongg etiquette, but keep in mind, these are my thoughts only. The mah jongg-set scenes in this series employ this philosophy, either as the norm, or in some cases, to demonstrate abnormal situations.

First, there is a certain rhythm of play. Players tend to take the same amount of time setting up their tiles, selecting new tiles, exchanging tiles with other players and determining a hand. Players who finish faster than others either attend to their own business or help other members set up. Players who take too much time setting up may sometimes irritate the rest of the table, if they are consistently slow. Sometimes this happens with new players; more experienced players will tolerate this type of slow play better than that of other experienced players, who just tend to be slow. (Especially if those more experienced slower players are enjoying a winning day.)

Interrupted play is another area which can frustrate players. Occasionally, a player must excuse herself to attend to her personal needs in the middle of a game. Those situations can be overlooked; when it happens frequently, it becomes an irritant. The same applies to telephone calls. Some groups ask their players to silence their phones, but when they don’t, it is expected that calls will be handled expeditiously. Players who receive calls on a regular basis frustrate other players. Players who make calls on a regular basis are testing others’ patience.

I am not a fan of table talk. Talking during play, fine, as long as it doesn’t disturb play. But talking about play during play to me is a no-no. For instance, there are so many of each type of tile, like four Two Bams. It’s important to remember how many have been played for a player to know if she can make her hand. That’s part of the strategy. So when another player announces that three Two Bams have already been played, the player who still needs two Two Bams receives information she may not have known otherwise and may help her win.

Another kind of table talk occurs when one player indicates she knows what hand another is playing, which tips off the rest of the players. (I’m guilty of this on occasion.) Part of a good defense is to be aware which tiles the other players need and avoid playing them.

In this game, there are eight Jokers, which serve as wild cards. When a player uses one in a threesome (pung), foursome (kong) or quintet and another player has or draws the tile that was substituted by that joker, they may exchange their tile for the joker and use it for their own purposes. Some suggest it is good etiquette to hand the tile to the player with the joker and let them hand back the joker rather than simply exchanging it oneself.

Before play starts, players exchange three tiles at a time to the right, then across and then to the left. Typically, when four players play, this exchange continues in reverse order, to the left, across and finally back to the right. One player can stop the exchange after the first time to the left. This tends to irritate other players, because it limits the number of new tiles they can collect, but it’s a great defensive play for that reason. The good etiquette part is how the group determines this can happen; one way is to agree that play will continue unless the person wanting to stop it speaks up immediately after the first play to the left.

Speaking of passing, here’s another instance of faster versus slower players. In the exchange of tiles described above (called The Charleston), faster players can sometimes get ahead of slower players. This can become problematic when plays get out of order. Some feel good etiquette is to decide before the game starts that no one passes until everyone is ready. Not one of my favorite options, because I’m one of the faster players, but I understand why it might be necessary.

This is probably more than you ever wanted to know about Mah Jongg etiquette, but I thought it would help my readers understand the setting of this series as it concerns my four protagonists’ dealings with other players. Though it may seem like overkill at times, etiquette provides a framework of civility in the game. I see it as partly responsible for the depth of friendship that would prompt my quartet to move outside their everyday existence to investigate murders involving their mah jongg friends.

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Posted in Author Spotlight, Blog Tour, Cozy Mystery

Author Spotlight of Julie Mulhern, Author of Shadow Dancing (The Country Club Murders Book 7)

I’m pleased to have author Julie Mulhern from Kansas City, Missouri here to speak about her writing and new release, Shadow Dancing, that is on blog tour with Escape with Dollycas Into a Good Book.

Hi, Julie. Please tell us how long you’ve been published and what titles and/or series you write.

My first book, The Deep End, released in February, 2015 from Henery Press. The Deep End began the Country Club Murders series. Shadow Dancing, my latest book, is book seven.

I’m also working on a new series, The Poppy Fields Adventures, about a Hollywood IT girl. In the first book, the heroine, Poppy Fields, finds herself pitted against a drug lord.

That sounds like quite an impressive workload.

Tell us a little bit about your new release and its series.

The Country Club Murders are set in Kansas City (write what you know) in the mid-1970s. I picked the 70s because I was more interested in researching history than I was in researching CSI-type things.

Ellison Russell, the heroine, is a widowed artist who is also part of the Country Club set. She was raised at a time when the expectations for girls were simple—grow up, get married, and have children. But, in the 70s, times were changing. As Ellison solves mysteries, she also tackles women’s issues.

I try (Lord, do I try) to include a laugh-out-loud moment in each mystery.

Shadow Dancing, the latest of Ellison’s adventures, it released on June 19th.

What an interesting time period and concept for a mystery. It’s also great that you try to add some humor to your books.

Describe your goals as a writer. What do you hope to achieve in the next few years? What are you planning to do to reach these goals?

My goals as a writer are to write the best books I can write and to make a living.

Writing isn’t a static skill—at least not for me. I love learning how I can improve and am a big fan of podcasts on the craft of writing. Also the craft of marketing (that whole making a living goal).

Not easy making a living off your writing these days, but I agree that it’s important to keep improving your skills as a writer and to study marketing, as well.

What type of reader are you hoping to attract?  Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?

I have some younger readers, but most of the people who enjoy the Country Club Murders were alive in the 70s. They enjoy the nostalgia and the humor and they don’t mind a mystery that addresses societal issues.

As for the new series—I’m hoping readers who love Ellison will also love Poppy.

Time periods and characters are big draws for readers.

What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?

I wouldn’t dare give advice to other authors—the path is different for all of us. That said, I’ve seen a lot of talented people, who want to be published, release their books too soon. If you’ve sent out your manuscript to more agents than you can count and none have nibbled, it might be time to take a look at your book not self-publish.

That’s an interesting answer and one that I haven’t had before at an interview but have read in publishing articles.

What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?

When I finished the first book I ever wrote, I thought it was marvelous. It wasn’t.

I thought the second book was even better—only so far as it wasn’t quite as dreadful as the first.

With the third book, I found myself a critique group. I listened (to podcasts and my critique partners) and learned, and made massive changes.

That third book got me an agent but the book didn’t sell, and didn’t sell, and didn’t sell.

While it wasn’t selling, I switched genres and wrote The Deep End.

The rest is history.

Great story that is a lesson in itself for aspiring authors.

Do you belong to any writing groups? Which ones?

I’m a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America.

I belong to Sisters in Crime, too. It’s a great group for women mystery authors.

What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?

I spent ten years getting up before the crack of dawn to write before I went to work, writing at kids’ soccer practices, writing at night, writing over lunch hours.

Now that I’m a full-time writer, my interest is losing all the pounds I gained over the past decade. I’ve become a dedicated walker, love barre classes, and adore yoga.

That rings a bell with me. I, too, get up very early to write. I still work full-time, though, and try to fit in walking which I feel helps clear my head to write (and also manage my weight).

What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?

There are days when the words are simply not there. Those are not good days.

That happens to all of us.

What do you like about writing cozy mysteries?

What I love about mystery series is getting to know the characters so well they feel like friends. In the Country Club Murders, Ellison, Grace, Aggie, Frances, Anarchy, and even Max, the Weimaraner who wants to rule the world, all feel like family. Writing a Country Club Murder means spending time (a lot of time) with some of my favorite people.

Yes, characters certainly grow on authors as well as readers.

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you or your books?

I love hearing from readers and the best e-mail I ever received was from a woman who was laughing so hard when she was getting chemo that everyone wanted to know what she was reading. If I’m feeling discouraged, I hold onto the fact that I brightened a very difficult day.

I know exactly what you mean.

Please list your social media links, website, blog, etc.

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Thanks so much for the interview, Julie, and I wish you the best on your new book and future publications. I’m also including a link to the rafflecopter that’s part of your blog tour for those who wish to enter your giveaway contest: