Tag Archive for: pampered pets

Whose Story Is It?

 by Sparkle Abbey

At our most recent Sisters in Crime meeting the discussion topic was “Point of View.” An easy technique for some writers, a more difficult one for others. 

Whether using first-person point of view as we do in our books, or third person which is very common in fiction writing, the choice of point of view is an important choice that a writer makes when beginning to tell a story. It will impact every other choice you make along the way. 

First person point of view is narrated by a character in the story. In our case, Caro or Mel, depending on the book. So you never get the story from anyone else’s perspective. First person sounds like this, “I don’t normally break into people’s homes, but today I was making an exception.” 

Second person, puts the reader into the story as a character. This isn’t one we’ve used very much. It sounds like this, “You went to work that morning and first thing, you decide you need more coffee.” 

Third person limited only lets the reader know what one character at a time thinks and sees. This one is pretty common and can be a very effective way to add suspense to a story. It sounds like this, “He had played this same game before and had anticipated this time out it would be something of a let down.” That’s from the brilliant Mary Higgins Clark’s “You Belong to Me.” Certainly a master of suspense writing!

With third person omniscient point of view anything can be revealed about anyone. It’s often used at the beginning of a story and then the writer shifts to other POVs to move the reader closer. Many times it reads like this, “Little did they know that…” It’s the wide shot and can be an intriguing method to get a readers attention. 

In our opinion, the bottom line is that the very best point of view is the one that goes unnoticed. It’s a matter of  – whose story is it? Who can best tell the story in such a way that we don’t even think about it. We’re just along for the ride!

So readers, do you notice point of view when you read? And do you have a preference for a particular POV? 

Sparkle Abbey’s latest story (written in first person) is a short but fun one. If you’ve not yet checked out PROJECT DOGWAY, this is a great time to do that. 

Sparkle Abbey is actually two
Mary Lee Ashford and Anita Carter,
who write the national best-selling Pampered Pets cozy mystery series. They are
friends as well as neighbors so they often get together and plot ways to commit
murder. (But don’t tell the other neighbors.) 

They love to hear from
readers and can be found on 
FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest, their favorite social
media sites. 
Also, if you want to
make sure you get updates, sign up for their newsletter via the 
SparkleAbbey.com website

Holiday Books & Movies

 by Sparkle Abbey

It’s hard to believe that it’s December but here we are. Some of us are looking forward to big family gatherings for the first time and a while and others are planning something much more low key for the holidays. Some of us have Christmas shopping done and others have not even begun. Some of us love holiday books and movies and others are…meh.

What’s your view? 

We love holiday movies but we both lean toward classic movies. And actually we share the same favorite of the season – “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

 We simply can’t let the holidays go by without at least one viewing. (Maybe more than one because we’re certain our families need to see it again, too.)

And then there are other great classics. 

Here are some that top our list: 

  • Miracle on 34th Street
  • A Christmas Carol 
  • Holiday Inn
  • Christmas in Connecticut
  • A Christmas Story
  • White Christmas
  • The Preacher’s Wife

And more recently films such as “The Man Who Invented Christmas” and “The Holiday” also make the list. 

We also love holiday-themed books though our taste there runs a bit more to crime. Mary Higgins Clark comes to mind as favorites over the years. Her website has a list of MHC Christmas Books

There are several resources if you’re looking for ideas.  Bibliofile provided this list of the 50 Best Christmas Mysteries and our go-to is always Janet Rudolph’s Mystery Fanfare for recommendations and the most complete listings. Here’s the recent list of Hanukah Crime Fiction

Just like movies we all have different tastes in books and just like you all, we’re always looking for new recommendations. So we’d like to hear from you. 

What’s your favorite holiday movie and your (most recent) favorite holiday-themed book?

Sparkle Abbey is actually two people, Mary Lee Ashford and Anita Carter, who write the national best-selling Pampered Pets cozy mystery series. They are friends as well as neighbors so they often get together and plot ways to commit murder. (But don’t tell the other neighbors.) 

They love to hear from readers and can be found on Facebook,and Twitter their favorite social media sites. Also, if you want to make sure you get updates, sign up for their newsletter via the SparkleAbbey.com website.

Pets in Mystery Fiction – Partners, Props, or Presence?

Guest Post: Arlene Kay
Today Sparkle Abbey welcomes Arlene Kay to The Stiletto Gang as our guest. Her topic is Pets in Mystery Fiction, a topic that’s near and dear to our hearts. Here’s what she has to say…

A recent poster on a mystery blog lamented the overuse of
cover art featuring pets. False advertising, she charged! Many of these novels
barely mention a dog or cat yet their images are used to entice cozy readers.
As a mystery writer and ardent animal lover, I offer a different perspective.
Occasionally a pet may grace a cover without any connection to the novel in
question but that is uncommon. Animals are and have always been intimately
connected to crime fiction in different ways. Even the great Sherlock Holmes,
hardly an animal lover, frequently relied on the scenting prowess of Toby the
hound and in Silver Blaze, the key clue was provided by the guard dog that didn’t
Some novels may feature service/military dogs, whose
official job it is to help catch criminals or simply animals that further the
exploits of their human partners. For instance, the late Virginia Lanier’s
series featured tracking dogs, while Diane Kelly’s “Paw Enforcement” series
includes an intrepid K-9 officer and his human partner. One of my all-time
favorites, anchovy lover Lulu the Basset Hound, the brainchild of author David
Handler, is the tireless pal of ghostwriter Stewart Hoag. Other examples
abound. Rita Mae Brown co-authors the Mrs. Murphy series with her tabby Sneaky
Pie Brown. Mrs. Murphy, a spunky feline, marshals her animal pals to help and occasionally save their human mama, Harry, from
harm. In each of these novels, animals play an active and integral part in resolving
the mystery.
For many authors, animals are a constant presence in our
novels as they are in our own lives. While pets may stay in the background,
they help to define the protagonist and advance the plot. For instance, Keats
and Poe, (part of my Creature Comforts series), are retired military canines who
join a rag tag band of rescues residing with Persephone Morgan. They may not
solve the puzzle, but they sustain their human caretaker and enrich her life.
Fans of Lillian Jackson Braun’s “Cat Who” series know that the contributions of
Koko and Yum Yum were only vaguely connected to the mystery at hand, but they
defined Jim Quilleran as a most sympathetic character.  I ask you, who can resist a man who nurtures
and loves felines?
From pet salons to dog shows, our animal friends provide
fans with a host of venues and plot devices that enhance their reading
pleasure. Perhaps that old saw is actually true: you can tell a book by its
Arlene’s Short but Sweet Bio
An artful combination of humor, satire and savagery make
Arlene Kay’s tales unique. The published author of nine mystery novels, is a
former Treasury executive who traded the trappings of bureaucracy for the
delights of murder most foul. She wisely confines her crimes to fiction
although like all mystery writers she firmly believes that most deaths are suspicious,
and everyone is a suspect. Her Creature Comforts series from Kensington
(Lyrical), includes Death by Dog Show; Homicide by Horseshow; and Therapy by

Anyone for tea and crumpets…and murder?

by Sparkle Abbey

We’re so excited about our new book, Downton Tabby, which is due out in June. Our fab publisher, Bell Bridge Books, is doing some fun promo with a cover reveal at Goodreads on May 15th, a blog tour, special pricing on our backlist, and the placement of a short, featuring Toria, the feline star of Downton Tabby.

We thought you might enjoy reading the short so here goes…

Cats dressed in period clothing

The Pawleys 
A brief episode in the British family history of Lady Toria Cash, the feline fatale of Downton Tabby

“Can you believe that alley cat?” Lady Meow Grandcatham lifted her whiskers in disdain. “Thinking I’d simply fall under the spell of his gorgeous green eyes.”

I shook my head. “He does seem rather cheeky.” I’m Annakatrina, Lady’s Meow’s lady’s maid, and the alley cat she was referring to was Alexander Kittingham who’d apparently made a play for Lady Meow in a big way.

I carefully folded the lace frill she’d worn to dinner and reached for the brush I used every night on her silky black fur. Though I would never bring it up to Lady Meow, talk below stairs was that Alexander Kittingham was not actually a purebred British shorthair. He was often referred to as “Alley” in a disparaging tone, by Thomas Cat, Lord Grandcatham’s valet. Alexander was quite a handsome fellow and a favorite of the ladies around the dinner bowl.

He was nice looking with dark brown fur and deep green eyes, but I was not impressed. You see I’m madly in love with Mr. Bait. Poor Mr. Bait is currently locked up in the pound, but I had no doubt he would soon be freed.

“Beyond cheeky, I’d say.” Lady Meow lifted her paw to her neck. “Would you help me get out of this collar?”

I pulled on the diamond collar with my teeth and it snapped off easily. Carefully placing it in the ornate trinket box, I picked up the brush again.

Suddenly, there was a scratch at the door and I moved quickly to open it.  Lady Vi, Meow’s grandmother, stepped into the room. She was a formidable feline and referred to as the Dogwagger Countess because even the dogs at the neighboring estates were afraid of her. I don’t believe she’d ever actually bitten anyone, canine or otherwise, but all it took was a hiss and the very slight unsheathing of her claws and it was clear she meant business.

“Grandmother.” Lady Meow purred. “What a surprise.”

cat in straw hat“Not an unpleasant one, I hope.” The older feline stepped closer so Lady Meow could bump noses with her.

“I’ll leave you.” I moved quietly on soft paws toward the door.

“No, please stay.” The Dogwagger waved her tail in my direction. “I know Meow trusts you.”

“What is it, Grandmama?” Lady Meow dropped on her haunches. “Is something wrong?”

“What is wrong is my sources tell me someone is publishing a catty tell all tome about the Britain’s aristocats. I am told there’s a whole chapter devoted to the Grandcatham Family.” She leaned on the edge of Lady’s Meow’s bed and smoothed her fur.

Lady Meow began to pace. “Have you told Pappa’?

The Dogwagger shook her head. “No, nor your mother. It will be up to us to sort this out.” She gave a deep sigh and tipped her head to look at me. “We must find out who this low-life is and stop him or her before our good name is dragged through the litter box.” Sharp blue eyes pinned me in place.

“What can I do to help, M ‘lady?”

“My dear, you must be our eyes and ears.” The Dogwagger put her paws together as if it were all settled. “You can go places we must not and you will never be noticed.”

I had the thought that not being noticed was hardly complimentary, but knew she was right.

“You will help us, won’t you, Anna?” Lady Meow crossed the room in a single smooth leap to stand in front of me. Her golden eyes searched my face.

“Of course, I will.” I bowed my head.

And thus began my new career as Annakatrina, Cat Sleuth.

What would Mr. Bait think?

Downton Tabby, book seven in The Pampered Pets Mysteries by Sparkle Abbey, is now available for pre-order at Amazon. Pre-order now and send us an email with “Downton Tabby Pre-Order” in the subject line and you’ll be entered in the drawing for this adorable Andrew Cardew teapot and a canister of special blend, Downton Abbey tea.

Also, if you’re missing any of our backlist this is a great time to grab them. Details here.

And if you want to make sure you’re up on all the Sparkle Abbey news, stop by our website and sign up for updates at sparkleabbey.com.

Art credits: 
Siamese Cat in a straw hat © Nizhava1956 | Dreamstime.com 
Loving cats in 1900 © Lestoquoy Véronique | Dreamstime.com

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!