The Princes’ Arches are located in Rotorua, New Zealand. This is an amazing park where there are some gorgeous grounds that include a small lake, a gazebo, and plenty of grassy areas. It was a cloudy day when we visited, but we enjoyed this beautiful, peaceful place nonetheless.
The morning of our arrival in Sydney, I looked out our balcony door and saw sunrise at the Sydney Opera House. My first thought was, get a photo before that’s gone! Not only were the sunrise colors spectacular, but with the iconic silhouette in the foreground, this was a very memorable moment.
More photos from Sydney Opera House
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. Now, she’s written eleven full-length romance novels and one novella, and has she returned to the cozy mystery genre using one of her retirement pastimes, the game of mah jongg, as her inspiration. Here’s the story behind the latest in the Map Jongg Mystery series, Beware the East Wind.
The beginnings of Beware the East Wind
Barbara said the inspiration for this book occurred when a hypnotist presented at a Sisters in Crime meeting. “I almost didn’t attend this one. Why would I want to hear a hypnotist? How was hypnotism related in any way to a murder mystery? Most important, would she be demonstrating and I’d have to get hypnotized?”
The idea didn’t appeal to Barbara, who claims she was worried she might be one of those susceptible enough to bark like a dog. “To my delight and for the benefit of my next Mah Jongg Mystery, her presentation was informative and fun, and on top of that, she was personable and authentic. I expected a magician with a cape and baton; instead, she was middle-age with short hair wearing pants and an overshirt. Just like me, except she could hypnotize people.”
Barbara decided to include a hypnotist in her next book—as her next victim. “I made the hypnotist a victim who may have triggered her own death by blackmailing her clients about the secrets they revealed while under. It took a bit of creative gymnastics to figure out how my amateur sleuths would identify client suspects when their identities were supposed to be confidential, but I eventually got there.”
An underlying theme
An underlying theme of the Mah Jongg Mystery series is that senior women, though they may face many difficult issues associated with aging, are still smart, capable and productive. Of course, the main way this is demonstrated is how my four protagonists are able to identify suspects, gather intel about them and solve murder cases without benefit of law enforcement training, the evidence collected, or the authority to make suspects and other parties talk to them. They’re not infallible, and they’re the first to admit that when approached by friends and acquaintances to take on a case.”
Like my four protagonists, I’m a retired senior living in a central Florida community similar to Serendipity Springs. A whole new life began for me when I moved to Florida. I never dreamed life could be so good. I try to make my contentedness shine through in my characters. Although I keep them positive and active, I’ve also included some of the challenges of aging to their stories.”
When simple isn’t easy
“This past summer I took advantage of a short program on Tai Chi offered by my local library. I’ve never been much into any type exercise/meditation like this, but the time seemed right. The class took place in one of their meeting rooms. There were ten of us, all women, all of a certain age. How did it go? I was overwhelmed. The movements look deceptively simple, but they are harder than they appear. At least for me they were. Slowing down and coordinating hand and foot movements took a lot of concentration and focus. It didn’t help that the instructor wore a flowing white garment supposedly typical of this Chinese martial art. It added a certain ambience to the day, but it threw off my concentration. The truth is I just didn’t like the fact that I wasn’t keeping up as well as the others in the group, but I’d sure like to get one of those costumes!”
Learn more about Barbara Barrett at barbarabarrettbooks.coma Rafflecopter giveaway
The California coast faces west. So, there are no places where you can catch an ocean-view sunrise in California, right? Nope. We don’t have many, but we do have a few, and Monterey Bay is one of those if you’re at the right spot in Capitola. We stayed at a bed-and-breakfast on the bay and were fortunate enough to wake to clear skies on this particular morning. What a view!
More sunrise/sunset photos from the archives
USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick-lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Lois is a former literary agent and an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry. Here’s the story behind her latest Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Handmade Ho-Ho Homicide.
The beginning of a story
“I’ve always gotten most of my plots from actual events,” Lois said. “I’m a total news junkie. I read two newspapers every day and watch both local and national news on TV every night. The plot for Handmade Ho-Ho Homicide is loosely based on a murder that took place last year about twenty miles from where I live and hasn’t come to trial yet. Unfortunately, I can’t offer anything beyond that without divulging a huge plot spoiler.”
One of the questions asked in Handmade Ho-Ho Homicide is what happens when parents don’t set boundaries? Lois pointed out that family interactions play an important role in her series. “In Revenge of the Crafty Corpse, Book 3 of the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, I introduced readers to Ira Pollack. Ira is Anastasia’s half-brother-in-law, a widower with three extremely spoiled kids. No matter how much he gives them, it’s never enough. In Handmade Ho-Ho Homicide, the eighth and newest book in the series, Ira’s permissive attitudes toward childrearing come to a head when a murderer takes advantage of the over-the-top Christmas extravaganza Ira has created on his property to impress his children.”
No nightmares here
“Readers won’t have nightmares after they read one of mysteries,” Lois said. “There are enough scary things going on around us these days. I want to offer readers a respite from the real world. Yes, my books are about murders, but I leave the gore to other authors. I’ve dumped a lot on Anastasia, but she deals with her staggering debt, communist mother-in-law, serial bride mother, and all those dead bodies I drop at her feet with a Jersey Girl attitude. If you read an Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, you’ll laugh your way to discovering whodunit.”
Lois also said she’s not a funny person by nature. “I’ll think of the perfect rejoinder hours after the moment has passed, and I mess up the punch line of every joke I’ve ever tried to tell. So it came as a real shock to me when I began writing and found my inner humor emerging. On paper, through my characters, I know how to be funny. Publishers Weekly compared Anastasia to Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon, and Kirkus Reviews called her ‘North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.’ Imagine that!”
Research can be scary
“Before I wrote humorous cozy mysteries, I wrote romance and romantic suspense. Lost in Manhattan is a story that involves a member of the IRA seeking revenge on my heroine’s family. Bombs are involved. Since I knew nothing about bomb making, I began searching the Internet for information as to the accuracy of what I wanted to happen in a specific scene. I discovered The Anarchist’s Cookbook online and contact information for the author. So I emailed him the scene and asked if I had my facts right. He not only wrote back, he included diagrams for constructing the bomb! Luckily, this was in the late 1990’s, prior to 9/11, the formation of Homeland Security, and the growth of government cyber surveillance. Nowadays the government probably monitors all of this guy’s online activities. I’m lucky I’m not wearing an orange jumpsuit—I look awful in orange!”
Learn more about Lois Winston at www.loiswinston.com
In last week’s Friday Foto, The geysers at Whakarewarewa, I showed a close-up view of the geysers. This photo steps back and shows the lush grounds surrounding the geysers. This area is actually a living Maori village where visitors can see Maori cultural exhibits, including an entertaining show, purchase art made by local artists, and see the geysers up close.
I admire what’s being done here to educate visitors and preserve and protect the Maori culture. Facilities are all excellent, the walking paths are well-maintained, and there is a tremendous amount to see and do here. The one thing this is not, however, is a rustic adventure. This village has all the comforts of home, right down to the air conditioned cafeteria where the “feast” is held.