Tag Archive for: Fifty Shades of Greyhound

We Just Want to Celebrate!

by Sparkle Abbey

What did you do to celebrate Independence Day?

Here in the Midwest, there were small-town parades, fireworks, and cookouts. We decorated bikes, ate potato salad, and listened to Yankee Doodle Pops. Other parts of the country may celebrate in other ways. But whether you celebrate at the beach or in the backyard, poolside or at the park, it’s a chance to pause to commemorate our country’s Independence Day with family and friends. 
It’s so easy to get caught up in the day to day of our busy lives that sometimes we forget to pause and celebrate. Holidays remind us to do that.
We’ve had a couple of months of celebrations. There have been birthdays, graduations, dance recitals and weddings. 
Milestones. It’s so important to pause and really celebrate those milestones. To take a moment and thoroughly enjoy them and tuck the memories into the corners of your heart.
Lately, we’ve also had some writing milestones. Book #9, Barking with the Stars, came out. this year and book #10, The Dogfather is slated for an August release. Wow. Book Ten. Of course, we’re crazy busy and working on more books and so we have to remind ourselves to pause and celebrate our Book #10 milestone.

What about you? What milestones big or small have you had recently? Did you take time to pause and enjoy the moment?

Retreating In Order to Move Forward

by Sparkle Abbey

To retreat is an act or a process of withdrawing. At least according to our handy Merriam Webster Dictionary app.  However, it has also come to mean a place you go to get away from it all. A place to relax, reflection and recharge.

This past weekend we participated in a different kind of retreat. This was plotting retreat with three other writers – the members of our critique group. We try to do this at least twice a year. It’s especially helpful at the start of a new project.

We started with a great dinner and discussion Friday night and then Saturday morning after breakfast we were ready to go. Each writer gets a two-hour time slot where we all focus on their story. Although we call this a plotting retreat, it’s up to the individual writer how their two-hour session is used. It may be actual plotting, or help with a story problem, or perhaps just brainstorming. There’s a wonderful synergy that happens when we put our five heads together.  It’s intense, it’s productive, and it’s also great fun.

There are several tools that we’ve found work well for us – a big whiteboard, flip charts, markers, reference books, and, of course, plenty of chocolate!

We been doing this for several years and at this past weekend’s retreat we worked on the plot for the 10th book in our Pampered Pets mystery series. We think you’ll enjoy what we’ve cooked up this time!

What about you? Have you ever attended any kind of retreat?

Sparkle Abbey is the pseudonym of two mystery authors (Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter). They are friends and neighbors as well as co-writers of the Pampered Pets Mystery Series. The pen name was created by combining the names of their rescue pets–Sparkle (Mary Lee’s cat) and Abbey (Anita’s dog). If you want to make sure you’re up on all the Sparkle Abbey news, stop by their website and sign up for updates at sparkleabbey.com.

By the way, beginning today the 5th book in Sparkle Abbey’s mystery series, FIFTY SHADES OF GREYHOUND is on sale for only $1.99 for a limited time in all ebook formats.

It Was A Sign

by Sparkle Abbey

So last
week, we were on our way to work and of course that means a trip through the
Starbucks drive-thru. Our Starbucks is very popular, especially in the
mornings and on the weekends. It’s not unusual for there to be a five or six
car wait before you even reach the speaker to place your order. Why not go
inside, you ask? Well, like most of the U.S., 
we’ve been hit with bone-chilling
subzero weather and over ten inches of snow. So regardless of the line, you don’t get out of your vehicle
unless you have to.

On this day,
the drive-thru was almost deserted. There were only three cars in front of us.
That’s a good thing, right? The lack of customers certainly 
didn’t have
anything to do with icy roads, a wind-chill of twenty below, or the fact that
it was after 8:00 am and the morning rush had already passed though. It was a
sign to proceed! So we did.

Just one example of our many Starbucks stops 
In what felt
like seconds, but was probably more like five minutes, it was our turn to order
our usual: grande non-fat no water chai, and a grande skinny hazelnut latte.
The only problem was that the driver’s window 
wouldn’t roll down. It was frozen
shut. There was no way that window was moving.

You see
where this is going.

Since there
were cars behind us, keeping us from backing out and a making a clean getaway,
we had only one choice—open the door to place the order. We looked rather silly, and felt
a little foolish. And while we were hoping no one was paying attention to us,
weren’t that lucky. We caught the driver behind us was smiling at us. Our barista also got a good chuckle at our predicament and casually mentioned we weren’t the first customer with a frozen window.

Within a few
minutes it was our turn to pay. Once again, we opened the door, allowing the
freezing wind to slap us around for a few seconds and to steal our breath. As
we reached for a Starbucks card to pay, the barista informed us there was no need-
our drinks had
already been paid for. Turned out the driver in the car before us felt so bad
about our window, he paid for our drinks! A true random act of kindness. It was
completely unexpected and it totally made our day.

February 9th
– 15th  is Random Act of Kindness week. The idea is to cheer up,
inspire, or help a stranger. There are many simple acts you can do: a
smile, let someone cut in front of you in line at the grocery store, or
pay for someone’s drink at your favorite coffee shop. Most acts of kindness
are free, you don’t have to spend money to “pay it forward.”

If you’re lacking
inspiration and need some “kindness” ideas, check out the Random
Acts of Kindness
 website. If you’re social media savvy, take part in
helping #RAKWeek2015 trend by flooding your social media platforms with
kindness. Look for us as we’ll be taking part in the fun.
What about
you? Have you initiated a random act of kindness? Have you ever been the recipient
of an act of kindness? Tell us about it! You never know who may read your comment
and feel inspired by you!

Starbucks story is mostly true. It happened to only one of us. We’ll let you
guess which one.

One last shout out! If you’re in the Ames area this week, we’ll be at the grand opening of Treats on a Leash for a book signing from 10:00 am- noon. Stop by and say hi! Click here for more details!

A Sense of Place

One of the comments we
see frequently in reference to the beautifully written and award-winning Louise
Penny series is: “I want to live in Three Pines!” Or words to that effect.
And isn’t that exactly
what we authors hope for when we create a fictional world? We hope readers love
our worlds so much they want to take up residence! It’s true with all books
but seems especially true with a series where the community created is revisited with each book.
Also this sense of
place is a big part of who the characters are. Just like where we’re all from tells
so much about us. How they feel about where they’re from is important. And whether they’ve always lived there and continue to do so; or
perhaps they couldn’t get away from their roots fast enough.
Some strong examples
of series with a sense of place are:

  • Stephanie Plum and her
    irreverent Jersey burb surroundings,
  • Jessica Fletcher and
    her cozy Cabot Cove community,
  • Tess Monaghan’s rough
    and tumble Baltimore,
  • And, of course, the aforementioned,
    Three Pines with
    Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du
    Québec and the cast of complicated characters who invite us into their village.
We chose Laguna Beach, California for the
setting of our Pampered Pets mystery series for several reasons.
Our two amateur sleuths aren’t originally from
California, they’re from Texas. Those Lone Star roots are a big part of Caro
and Mel even though they both have pretty distinct reasons for leaving the
great state of Texas. 

Laguna Beach is not only the perfect place for
a pet-themed mystery with its pet-friendly merchants and off-the-chart number
of pet owners (more registered dogs than there are kids), it’s also the perfect
place for Caro and Mel.
The community is a seaside resort in southern
Orange County located midway between Los Angeles and San Diego. It has
spectacular cliffs, glistening beaches, and breathtaking views of the Pacific,
but it also has a uniquely artsy and almost European feel. The quaint
boutiques, coffee bars, and sidewalk cafes provide a sense of place that
brings together people who care about their community and each other. A
community interested the greater good and setting things right when they go
In our fictional Laguna Beach there are some
great restaurants and stores, just like in the real village. However, though we’ve used a real place we’ve populated the tree-lined village area, the Hills
and the fabulous beachfront homes with characters from our imagination.

In our make-believe world you’ll find: 

  • Judd Malone, no nonsense, stay-out-of-police-business homicide detective, 
  • Diana Knight, former screen star who still brings to mind the magic and glamour of a bygone era in Hollywood, 
  • Darby Beckett, wholesome and sometimes naive owner of Paw Prints pet photography, 
  • Ollie Hembry, former rocker turned pet rescuer, 
  • Kendall Reese, flamboyant dresser and pet groomer extraordinaire, 
  • Fan favorite, Betty Foxx, silk pajama-wearing senior with a strange sense of fashion and an eye for the gentleman, 
  • And, of course, assorted adorable cats and pups.

They all, like us love the unique and close-knit community. We think it’s the perfect place for Caro and Mel. And for a bit of fictional murder… 

What specific things do you love about the settings in your favorite mysteries? Do you enjoy returning to those favorite places? 

Our most recent book, Fifty Shades of Greyhound, has been called “A real tail-wagger!” (That’s from Buttercup aka Trixie the smart puppy who stars in the Paws & Claws series by NYTimes bestselling author Krista Davis). It follows Desperate Housedogs, Get Fluffy, Kitty Kitty Bang Bang, and Yip/Tuck. Next up is, The Girl with the Dachshund Tattoo

Find out more and sign up for updates by visiting our website!

Much Ado About Something

by Sparkle Abbey

When we attend conferences, besides meeting readers (our favorite part of cons and the biggest reason we attend) we’re often on panels with fellow authors, and we also try to attend as many of the other panels as we can. We admit we’re sometimes (okay, frequently) distracted by catching up with friends and finding out what’s going on in this crazy world of publishing. And margaritas.

But we do attend panels.

Often these panels are so great that a panelist says something and we go away and need to think about it. It may be just a snippet but there are times when the “something” hangs with us long after the plane ride home. After the unpacking. After the laundry’s all been done. After we’re back to the routine of the day job. It often pops back into our heads the next time we sit down to write.

Lee Goldberg said one of those “somethings” in a panel we attended. At this point, we’re not even sure of the topic of the panel, but in any case, Lee said, “No one remembers the mystery plot of a Monk episode.” We shared a shocked look, sure that wasn’t true. Lee must be wrong. However, he went on to explain that mostly when fans of the series talk about a storyline, they say ‘the one where there the trash collection workers were on strike’ or ‘the one where Monk had a look-alike who was a crime boss.’

His point was that as writers we often think that the backdrop of the story is secondary, but really it’s vitally important to the story as a whole. If plot is “what” the book is about, the backdrop or sub-plot is tightly hooked into “who” the book is about. And together the what and who make the why, and that’s the trifecta that creates the richness in a series. It’s what makes us remember a book and come back to a character. As a reader, you’ve now lived through an experience with Monk. (Or in our case, Caro and Mel.)

That’s a very cool something.

We belong to an online book discussion group and recently everyone was sharing their all time favorite book(s). Wow, what a wide variety of novels were noted as favorites.

We were again reminded of Lee’s statement.

Fiction books are read for entertainment. We don’t read fiction for knowledge – though it’s very cool when we learn new things as part of the experience. We’ve tried to sprinkle in a few of things we learned about Greyhound rescue in our latest book, Fifty Shades of Greyhound. But when readers talk about the book we hope what they remember is the unique adventure Caro had as she worked to solve this whodunnit.

Because when we discuss our favorite books we talk about the people in the books and all that was happening to them while the story was going on. We share their experience. And that’s the magic of a memorable book.

Now, it’s your turn to think about Lee’s “something”

How about you? When you talk about you favorite books what do you remember?
(Oh and thanks, Lee.)

Sparkle Abbey is the pseudonym of mystery authors Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter who write the Pampered Pets mystery series for Bell Bridge Books. They are friends as well as neighbors so you’ll often find them writing at ML’s dining room table or at their local Starbucks. They live in the Midwest, but if they could write anywhere, you would find them on the beach with their laptops and depending on the time of day either an iced tea or a margarita.

They love to hear from readers and you can find them online at:
Website: www.SparkleAbbey.com
Facebook:  facebook.com/sparkleabbey  
Twitter: @sparkleabbey
Goodreads: goodreads/sparkleabbey