Tag Archive for: Pets in Mysteries

Friends and Sidekicks

by Sparkle Abbey

In life and in fiction, sidekicks and friends are important.

In fiction, authors use sidekicks and friends to give insight about the main character. That insight helps us, as readers, understand more about who that characters is and what makes them tick. While you can know quite a lot about a character through their actions, it’s the friend or sidekick who sometimes provides perspective and/or relief, but always adds dimension to the protagonist.

Whether it’s Watson to Holmes or Jeeves to Bertie Wooster or, if you’re a Hallmark Mysteries fan, Dani to Jennifer (Garage Sale Mysteries), we develop our view of the main character through the eyes of these sidekicks and friends.

In our books, we’ve had some fun with unusual sidekicks. Our readers love Diana Knight, the former star of the silver-screen turned avid pet advocate, who is Caro Lamont, our pet therapist’s, best friend. And we constantly hear from readers of the series who can’t get enough of Betty Foxx, our pet boutique owner, Melinda Langston’s feisty senior sidekick. Betty always adds her own view of things to the story!

Both play some role in solving the mysteries in our books, but they also provide insight into the two cousins’ thinking and their motivations. Something that would be much harder without them, and much less fun. At times they also, much like real-life friends, provide support or keep the cousins accountable.

How about you? Do you have any favorite fictional sidekicks or friends, either books or movies? And, if so, we’d love to hear what you especially like about them.

Sparkle Abbey is the pseudonym of mystery authors Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter. They’ve chosen to use Sparkle Abbey as their pen name on this series because they liked the idea of combining the names of their two rescue pets – Sparkle (ML’s cat) and Abbey (Anita’s dog).

The Dogfather, book #10 in the series, is just out. Here’s a little bit more about the book:

Who knew the world of designer purses could be such a dog-eat-dog business?

When a local, designer handbags store owner is found dead, the police first believe it’s an unfortunate accident. But the evidence doesn’t lie. Before you can say “wiseguy,” Bow Wow Boutique owner, Melinda Langston’s, former fiancé and undercover FBI agent, Grey Donovan, is the prime suspect.

Now the two are working side-by-side to prove Grey’s innocence— nothing personal, just business. Or is it? Suspects are piling up, family secrets are exposed, and no one is who they appear to be, including Mel’s newest employee. Time’s running out. Mel better sniff out the killer before she and Grey end up sleeping with the fishes.

Also, if you’d like to keep up-to-date on Sparkle Abbey news, stop by the website and sign up for their newsletter.

Are Book Signings Old Hat?

By Sparkle Abbey

In a couple of weeks we will have our last book signing for
2014. We always enjoy participating in signings. It’s a great way to
connect with our readers, network with other writers, and to support local

Over the past three years, we’ve participated in local
events, regional mystery reader festivals, and larger book signing at national conferences.
Sometimes the events are planned for us, and some we’ve planned ourselves.
There are a couple of things that all the books signings have had in common: we
never know what’s going to happen or how many people, if any, will show up. That
seems to depend on the venue, the advance publicity, and often what else is
going on in the community and in people’s lives.

Our very first signing was for the launch of Desperate
Housedogs, which our local Des Moines library organized for us. We sold more
than 100 books! It felt like every person we knew had taken time to celebrate
our success. It was a night we’ll never forget. 

Since that first book launch, we’ve had numerous signings.
Every one of them we’ve enjoyed immensely. Sometimes we sell out of books, and
other times we’ll only sell a handful of books. Regardless of the number of books we sell, we always enjoy talking to the folks who have taken the time to come and see us. At one recent event, there were
five people at the signing, including the bookseller. Oh, and we can’t forget
the three cats—especially the one who decided to lay on top of our books. There was a lot of laughter that night.  

Recently we’ve talked to many of our fellow
writers who’ve decided not to participate in local or regional signings due to low turnout. A book signing can be lonely for an author. Sometimes the only conversation we’ll have with someone is to
answer the popular question, “Do you know where the bathroom is?”

As we sent our “Save the Date” email, it got us thinking. Since
readers can easily engage with their favorite authors via social media, and
with more ebooks being sold now more than ever before, are book signings a thing of the

We hope not. We enjoy getting out and talking to fellow book
lovers about great authors, and discovering what everyone is reading. We’ve found
many of our favorite writers that way. It also kicks us out of our writing caves and makes us interact with the real world.

What about you? Do you attend book signings? If so, who did
you go see?

Oh, and in case you were wondering about that last book signing, here’s the info:

Book signing
in Des Moines for our newest release! 

Friday, December
19th, 6:00 – 8:00 PM

 – 2629 Beaver Avenue, Des Moines, IA

Maybe we’ll see you there!

Love and Murder

by Sparkle Abbey

February, the month of love, brings thoughts of hearts and flowers, and (at least for those of us who write crime fiction) murder.

Love and murder go so well together. Why? Maybe because both
involve strong emotion. Let’s see, what do you suppose the main motives are for murder?
Thriller writer, John Lescroart lists on his website “14 Motives for Murder” 
but he summarizes them as love, lust, lucre, and loathing. We think
he’s onto something.

motive for a crime of passion, love and murder are clearly a great match. However, in addition, love also often becomes a part of the storyline for the characters solving the mystery. It’s no accident that popular crime shows, like Castle,
often feature a bit of romance. There’s been a lot of online discussion about
the Castle/Beckett pairing, and whether their upcoming wedding vows will ruin
the romantic tension in the show. Many fans of the 1980s private detective show Moonlighting felt getting
Maddie (Cybil Shepard) and David (Bruce Willis) together was responsible for
the demise of the popular show.

The idea of love and crime together has become so popular
over the years that there has become a whole sub-genre in movies and novels called
romantic suspense. These stories often have a central romantic theme as well as
the intrigue.
Lisa Gardner, a master of suspense
fiction, talks about the hazy definitions of the sub-genre and some of the
prejudices in her great series of lectures on the Secrets of Romantic Suspense
. Kinsey Millhone, Sue Grafton’s, no-nonsense PI isn’t really the romantic type, but still there have
been a few men her in life from Dietz, a fellow PI, to longtime friend, Cheney. In some mysteries, there’s a full-blown love interest and in others there’s just a hint of romance.

In our Pampered Pets mystery series featuring former Texas beauty queen cousins,
Caro and Melinda, we truly had no plans to go there. But…well, the stories just
naturally evolved to encompass a bit of “love, lust, lucre and loathing.” And
no spoilers here, but we think you’ll like where the series is headed. 

So what do you think? Do you like a serving of love with
your mystery? 
Or would you rather keep the hearts and flowers far away from
your crime fiction? We’d love to hear what you think!
Coming soon: Our first short – “Project Dogway” (Out
February 24th

Pets in Mysteries

A scientist by training, a romanticist at heart, Maggie Toussaint loves to solve puzzles. Whether it’s the puzzle of a relationship or a who-dun-it, she tackles them all with equal aplomb and wonder. Maggie’s cozy mystery from Five Star, IN FOR A PENNY, is about a terrible golfer trying to save her best friend from a murder rap. Her three other published works are pet-laden romantic suspense books, one of which won Best Romantic Suspense in the 2007 National Readers Choice Awards. Her day jobs include freelancing for a weekly paper and leading a yoga class. Visit her at http://www.maggietoussaint.com/.

Readers love sassy felines and lovable pooches. In the mystery genre, pets are often instrumental in solving the crime. Whether pets hog the limelight or play the role of sidekick, their presence in a story is often sought-out by mystery fans.

Some writers employ an animal’s natural abilities, such as a cat’s curiosity or a dog’s keen sense of smell to solve the riddle of who-dun-it. These writers intuitively understand the affinity people have for animals. Readers may connect with pets on a physical and emotional level. In return, pets often display loyalty and affection for their humans despite the species language barrier. A few examples of dogs and cats in mysteries follow.

In my cozy from Five Star, IN FOR A PENNY, a grieving St. Bernard helps sleuth Cleopatra Jones run down the villain. Carola Dunn writes about a perfectly normal mutt, Nana, who finds a vital mystery-solving clue in MISTLETOE AND MURDER; Nana also finds the body in BLACK SHIP. In Glynn Marsh Alam’s upcoming March release, MOON WATER MADNESS, swamp dog Plato helps sleuth Luanne Fogarty by digging up a weapon. A four-month-old Rhodesian Ridgeback named Baraka shines in Maris Soule’s mystery, THE CROWS.

Marcia James has a Chinese Crested hairless dog named Smokey, a DEA drug-sniffing dog, who goes undercover in AT HER COMMAND. (Janes includes Chinese Cresteds in all her books; her upcoming short story in TAILS OF LOVE benefits a no-kill animal shelter.) And who can forget Asta, the playful terrier tugging Nick and Nora Charles around in THE THIN MAN series? Tom Shreck has an adventurous Muslim basset hound named Allah-King in his Duffy Dombrowski series, of which TKO is the latest release. Shrek’s series was recommended by author Barbra Annino, who has a similar pet in her series, which is in acquisitions. Phyllis Humphrey is penning a cozy in which the dog’s behavior helps her sleuth solve the mystery.

But mysteries aren’t just populated with dogs. Felines Koko and Yum Yum from Lillian Jackson Braun’s THE CAT WHO… series solve crimes in book after book. Author CP Perkins recommends the five-book Dixie Hemingway Pet Sitter Series, written by Blaize Clement, in which amateur sleuth Dixie has all manner of interactions with her pet clients.

Other authors seek to up the stakes by adding a twist to animals in mysteries. They include an enhanced level of communication that goes beyond routine pet/owner interactions. This information exchange ventures into the realm of extrasensory perception, allowing direct thought transference between sleuth and pet or animal to animal. To illustrate, I’ve included a few titles from this subgenre of books.

Piper Rome told me about an upcoming pet series by Judi McCoy. In McCoy’s books, Rudy the talking dog communicates with Ellie the NY dogwalker. Look for McCoy’s titles to release soon: HOUNDING THE PAVEMENT (March) and HEIR OF THE DOG (October); McCoy reports that her books have been optioned into a weekly television series. Angie Fox writes a paranormal mystery/romance series, the first of which is THE ACCIDENTAL DEMON SLAYER, where Pirate the talking dog is a reader favorite.

Let’s not forget the cats. Rita Mae Brown has another installation in her sleuthing cat series, THE PURRFECT MURDER, coming out this month, where felines Mrs. Murphy and Pewter share duties with Tee Tucker the Corgi. THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE by David Wroblewski, a literary thriller, mixes fact and fiction as the dog Almondine communicates with a deaf mute boy.

Other authors change it up even more. They write about pets as sleuths. In Vic diGenti’s WINDRUSHER series, the story is told entirely from a feline point of view. Author Karen McCullough reminded me to include Carole Nelson Douglas’s Midnight Louie series, where the cat is the private investigator.

Why are so many authors inspired to write pets in their books? I believe it is due to their experiences with pets. The unconditional affection of dogs and grudging respect of cats that occurs when animals and people cohabitate creates lasting feelings and memories. Pet stories speak a universal language, one that pet owners understand intuitively.

To put it another way, characters populate stories. Story characters have their own agendas, their own means, motives, and opportunities. Pets come pre-programmed with where they want to sleep, what they want to eat, when they want an adventure, etc. For writers and readers, an agenda-driven pet is pure gold.

Lists of pets in mysteries are available online. Here’s one such list that may provide more information: http://librarybooklists.org/fiction/adult/mystery.htm#mystanim

My examples of mysteries with pets are by no means exhaustive, and I apologize if I’ve omitted anyone’s favorite. Be sure and add any omissions to the comments.

A special thanks to Evelyn David and her friends at The Stiletto Gang for inviting me to be here today. Thanks for stopping by the blog!

IN FOR A PENNY, ISBN 9781594146466 (hardcover and large print) Buy it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or ask your librarian to order it!

HOUSE OF LIES, Best Romantic Suspense, National Readers’ Choice Awards ISBN 9781601540317 buy it: Amazon, The Wild Rose Press, Kindle

NO SECOND CHANCE, buy a book, help a horse ISBN 9781601541628 buy it: Amazon, The Wild Rose Press, Kindle

SEEING RED (ebook) Buy it at Fictionwise

Maggie Toussaint