Tag Archive for: pets

Summer Is Perfect for Shorts!

 by Sparkle Abbey

Here in the Midwest we’re finally seeing some regular summer weather but most of this summer has been hot, hot hot!

So no matter what your style vibe is, it’s truly been the perfect weather for shorts. 

We’re probably apt to flash a little less leg in our choices. 

Mostly because after a year of going nowhere and working inside, we not only don’t have any tan lines – we don’t have any tans at all. 

Caro and Mel, the heroines in our Pampered Pets mystery series would undoubtedly be much more daring And, after all, they do live in Laguna Beach. 

So, we’re thinking they’d have great stylish choices in shorts. 

How about you? Do you wear shorts? 

And, if so, what’s your favorite style? 

And by the way, since we’re talking short, summer is also the perfect time for short reads. We’ve been reading some of the award nominated shorts stories. Something quick for the deck or the beach or even for a road trip. So, we’re loving great novellas and short stories! And we’ve also just released our very first short – PROJECT DOGWAY. 

Here’s a little bit about it. 
Canines are on the “catwalk” at this Laguna Beach dog fashion show—a heartworm awareness fundraiser—where former Texas beauty queen and currently-not-speaking-to-each-other cousins, Caro and Mel, are in attendance. When award-winning show beagle, Shadow’s, owner drops dead from eating a deadly scallop ceviche, the cousins find themselves embroiled in much more than a fashion “faux paw.”
Project Dogway is available on all ebook platforms: 

Watch for our next short, coming soon! Any guesses on what Caro and Met will be up to next? 

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

Clicking Our Heels: animal Lover? Our Pets Over the Years

Clicking Our Heels – Animal lover? Our Pets Over the Years.
Monthly Clicking Our Heels Giveaway:

To enter for a chance to win the first three books of the Sparkle Abbey series or AB Plum’s The Boy Nobody Wanted (2 winners will be selected this month) comment below on the blog. Good luck and happy reading!
— winner will be announced next Wednesday on The Stiletto Gang Facebook page
– https://www.facebook.com/stilettogang 

Paula Gail Benson – Yes, I grew up with dogs and cats, all of them dear to me. My
and work and travel keep me from having pets now, but I miss them.

Judy Penz Sheluk – I love animals. As far as pets, I’ve had 5 dogs: a Golden mix
as a kid, and four Golden Retrievers as an adult. My current Golden, Leroy
Jethro “Gibbs” is three.

J.M. Phillippe – I am definitely an animal lover. My cat Oscar (who passed away
last year) was always the first to hear about all my plots and ideas. I think
writers do better when they have an animal to talk things out to.

Debra H. Goldstein – After having had guppies and gold fish, my first serious pets
were three turtles who I named Turk, Durk, and Lurk. Lord Silver Mist (Misty),
a toy poodle and Casey (a bichon fries) won my heart and ruled the roost later.

Bethany Maines – I do love animals, but I’ve only had 2 dogs in my life. When I
was a kid we had Chips, the Chocolate Lab. And now we have Kato the Rottweiler
mix. Kato is such an adorable guy and such a big mama’s boy that I don’t know
what I will do when it’s time to say goodbye. I think that’s why I haven’t had
more pets – I’m afraid to sign up for the heartbreak.

Kay Kendall – I’m wildly allergic to cats, although I have survived living
with a few during my early

married years. As I’ve aged, my allergies have
worsened so bye-bye kitty cats. I was raised with dogs and find them more
congenial anyway. I was horse crazy as a kid but couldn’t have a horse because
I was allergic to their danger and hay. For the last two decades my husband and
I have rescued abandoned house rabbits. Turs out I am also allergic to them too
so gradually he has taken over their care. Bottom line, to me my house would
not be home unless there was one dog and at least one bunny in it.

Cathy P. Perkins – I’ve always had dogs – love their antics, their unconditional
love, and their simple joy in life.

Juliana Aragon Flatula – I love all animals but especially cats and dogs. I’ve had
several pets and they live to be old pets and that is the saddest part of being
a pet parent when you have to let them go.

Julie Mulhern – I love dogs and horses and have been fortunately to have both
in my life. I am currently catering to the needs of a Weimaraner who takes all
that is provided for him as his due.

Dru Ann Love – I love animals, but allergies dictate that I can’t have one in
my home. We grew up with cats though.

AB Plum – My parents gave me my first dog at age 18 months. Losing a
birthday-cocker spaniel gave me a story for my first university Creative
Writing class (Too maudlin for the
prof and earned me a C).

TK Thorne – Animals have always been part of my life – dogs, in particular,
but also cats and horses,

at one time parakeets and fish. I really can’t
imagine living without a dog. I believe dogs co-evolved with humans and that we
affected each other. Without dogs in our development, we might be different
(and worse – yes, really) creatures.

Shari Randall – When I was a little girl my family had three pets. We had a
parakeet named Herbie – yes, he was named after we saw the movie, Herbie the
Love Bug. After Herbie died in the middle of dinner one night, a neighborhood
friend gave us an all black kitten my sister named, unimaginatively, John. John
must have been a martyred king in another life – he suffered regally and
without complaint three littles girls who loved to dress him up like a doll. Our
last pet was a rescue mutt named Teddy, a high energy Weimaraner mix. He was a
little too high energy for my mom, however, and went to live on a farm. I love
cats especially, but my children have allergies, so we haven’t had any pets in

Linda Rodriguez – I have had dogs and cats for most of my life, always rescue
animals since I have been out on my own. When I was a small child, I also had
rabbits, a mynah bird, an ocelot, and a Komodo dragon as pets, because my
father was into exotic animals. The mynah bird and ocelot were fine, but the
Komodo dragon was vicious. I still have a soft spot for him, though, because
I’m an inveterate animal lover.

The Next Big Thing

by Sparkle Abbey

Everyone has dreams and aspirations. We certainly have big dreams! But why do some people achieve their dreams and others struggle? We believe it comes down to one word—action. We strongly believe setting goals, creating a plan, and working hard creates success. You’ve probably read a blog or two by us about goal setting. We love goals! They give us a clear picture of what we want and help us map out how to get there.

All of our writer friends know that as 2018 comes to a close, we will kick off 2019 with new goals and an action plan to turn those new Sparkle Abbey dreams into reality. It never takes long for someone to ask us, “What are you working on now?” We love that question for a number of reasons—to test new titles, to talk about the newest Sparkle Abbey project, and to talk about our individual projects.

Game of Scone CoverAh, yes. . . . Individual projects. Maybe you’ve heard that Sparkle, aka Mary Lee, has been diligently working on her own cozy mystery series under the name of Mary Lee Ashford. We are thrilled to announce that book one, Game of Scones, debuted this week!

It’s the first in a new series called the Sugar & Spice mysteries and we think you’ll see some similarities to our Pampered Pets books  – cozy, twisty, and with a dollop of humor. 

The publisher, Kensington Books/Lyrical Press describes it like this: 

As co-owner of Sugar and Spice Cookbooks, Sugar Calloway has seen simple confections bring friends together and spark fiery feuds. Except this time, the recipe truly is to die for . . . 

We hope you’ll check out Game of Scones and celebrate with us the realization of another dream. And as 2018 comes to a close, we wish you much success as you work toward your own goals in 2019. 

Special Pricing!

Also one last piece of fun news: Raiders of the Lost Bark, book eight in our Pampered Pets series is on sale for 99¢ in all eBook formats. 

Amazon Barnes & Noble Kobo iTunes

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.

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.

Pacing A Page Turner

by Sparkle Abbey

Over the years, one of the questions we get asked frequently is how to do we keep our pacing so tight? We jokingly like to reply, “We leave out the boring stuff.”

Some people think pace just happens organically. Honestly, we work pretty darn hard on

pacing. For us, pacing is a combination of structure, word choice, tension, action and reaction, cliffhangers, and knowing when to “show” versus “tell.” We work on pace at the very beginning. Although at times, to find the right pace for a scene or chapter, it takes rewriting many times to get it right. We thought we’d share a few techniques we use to control pacing.

When we refer to structure, we’re talking about chapters, scenes and sentence length.

Shorter chapters and scenes are quickly read and make the reader feel that the story is moving along quickly. Fragmented sentences, punchy verbs, and snappy dialogue also speed up the pace. But if you have a story of only 800-word scenes, it’s not going to have the urgency you’ve intended, just a story with short chapters. Knowing when to move between longer scenes, where the story builds with important details and descriptions creating the anticipation of what’s going to happen next, allows for the shorter scenes to stand out and move the story along.

Active verbs create action and suspense while painting a clearer picture in the reader’s mind. Harsh consonant sounds such as “crash” or “kill” create more urgency than “bump” or “murder.” By selecting the right words not only will the pace change, but it’s a subtle way for mystery writers misdirect the reader by planting clues toward a suspect.

We love cliffhangers! When the end of a scene or chapter is left unresolved or with a greater

disaster than when the scene began, the pace automatically picks up, and the reader has to turn the page to find out what happens next. Just remember, don’t leave your reader hanging for too long!

Writers hear it all the time, “show don’t tell.” Most of the time it’s true, but there are times when it’s better to tell than to show. “Showing” is a play-by-play, making your readers connect with characters and to become invested in their story. There are some instances where it’s better to condense the details to move the story along.

Each scene requires a different pace. Some need to be quick and urgent while others need to slowly build and give readers a chance to catch their breath. As writers, we strive to write a story with those types of peaks and valleys, and when we do that our readers tell us the book was a page-turner. 

One of the best compliments a writer can receive.

If you’re looking for a summer read, Downton Tabby is only $1.99 on all eBook formats.

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).

Travel Plans aka Adventures

by Sparkle Abbey

What’s that saying about the best laid plans? Oh, right…the full quote is “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” From the Scottish poet, Robert Burns.

It seems that particular quote is often true for us. And especially when it involves travel plans. Or as we like to call them travel adventures.

More times than we can count we’ve had flight delays, road construction delays and bad weather (ice, snow, thunderstorm) delays. Heck, we’ve even had a tumbleweed delay on a flight into Denver. Now, there have been a few times when the travel plans gone awry, were out own fault. We may or may not have missed a turn and ended up in Michigan. Twice.

Has anything like that ever happened to you?

We have, more than once, completely missed mystery conferences or apperances because our rebooking couldn’t get us on-site in time. Not good. So you can understand our trepidation as we booked our flight for the Malice Domestic conference at the end of this month. We love attending Malice Domestic. We love meeting readers, reconnecting with friends and fellow authors, and hanging out with book people. So, we’re thinking positive travel thoughts and hoping for smooth sailing…er…flying.

If you’re planning to be at Malice we look forward to seeing you there. In fact, if you see us at Malice we’re happy to share a cocktail or a coffee and hear some of your travel adventures. Or perhaps you’d like to share here?

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 authors co-write the best-selling Pampered Pets Mystery Series which focuses on the wacky world of precious pedigrees, pampered pooches, and secrets in posh Laguna Beach, California. The main characters and amateur sleuths are Texas cousins, Caro Lamont, a pet therapist, and Melinda Langston, a pet boutique owner. The two would join forces and work together if they were speaking, but they’re not.  Midwest Book Review calls the series “A sassy and fun mystery!”

At Malice Domestic this year Sparkle Abbey (aka Anita and Mary Lee) will be on the Murderous Wit panel at 3:00 PM on Saturday along with Paula Gail Benson, Ginger Bolton and Lida Sideris.

What Inspires You?

by Sparkle Abbey

“All the effort in the world won’t matter if
you’re not inspired.”―Chuck Palahniuk

is everywhere. As writers, we are always looking for ways to be stirred to
greatness… or at least to productivity. Inspiration drives actions. In our case, that means words on the blank page.

When we’re on deadline, as we are now, we don’t get to wait for inspiration
to hit, we have to sit down and do the work. But that doesn’t mean we stop
looking for ways to be inspired. 

We’re moved by great books and entertaining movies. A photo of the sea or a road trip with our closest girl friends. A great conversation with differing viewpoints or a good laugh. 

Sometimes inspiration is as simple as remembering why we wanted a particular goal in the first place. Remembering the “why” can be pretty inspiring.

Other times you simply need a break in the action. We’ve heard it referred to as refilling the well, and that’s truly what it feels like. Your inspiration and creativity has been depleted and you need to pause and refill.

We also love a good quote. Here are a few that
have inspired us:

“I don’t go by the rule book. I lead from the heart, not the head.” – Princess Diana

Don’t waste time waiting for inspiration. Begin, and inspiration will find you.” –  H. Jackson Brown, Jr.  

“I am not afraid of storms for I am learning to sail my ship.” – Louisa May Alcott

These are the things that inspire us, but we’re not all inspired by the same things or in the same ways. We’d love to hear what inspires you?

Mary Lee and Anita aka Sparkle Abbey

Here’s a little more news from us:
We are busy working on books nine and ten in The Pampered Pets Mysteries. 

We just received word from our publisher that Raiders of the Lost Bark,
book eight in the series, will soon be an ebook special so watch for that special pricing coming soon. 

Also, if you’re missing any of our backlist this is a great time to catch up so you’re ready for book eight. Details on all the titles are available 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 

Clicking Our Heels – Pets We Would Pick

Clicking Our Heels – If We Could Have Any Animal as a Pet, What We Each
Would Pick
 Sparkle Abbey: That’s a difficult question for us because we both
have households with pets.  We’ve mostly
had cats and dogs through the years…or the occasional fish.  It’s easier to say what we would never want
as pets – spiders, snakes and bats.

:  While completely
impractical, I think I would love to live with a giant panda. I did have a
friend who had a raccoon as a pet, and I always thought that was pretty cool,
too. Although considering how much my cat keeps me on my toes, I am not sure I
could handle a more demanding pet.

: Let’s face it, dogs are the best pets – they have the matching
factors of cute, I’d have a polar bear. 
We would go on adventures and scare unwanted door to door salesmen.

Gail Benson
:  I would like to have a
mythical animal pet, like a unicorn.  I
could ride it, talk to it, and admire its beauty, while it could take care of
any physical needs it might have, like for nourishment and rest.  And, being mythical, it could be immortal.

:  I need a fictional animal –
a unicorn.  I was horse crazy as a girl
but was allergic to horse dander and to hay. I figure a unicorn would have no
dander, no smell, not need to eat. Perfect. And beautiful too.

: If could have any animal as a pet, it’s be an elephant. I just love

: There are so many to choose from! For different reasons, I’d love to
have pandas, goats, meerkats, and koalas. 
They’re all cuddly and funny to watch, like cats whom I could watch all
day. Fortunately, they’re not really good pets (except for some goats), or I’d
spend all my time messing with my exotic pets instead of writing my books!

: If my city would allow it, I’d own a pygora goat.  They’re cute, small, easy to handle, and
affectionate, and they bear cashmere quality fiber that you can comb off them
in the spring.  I’m a spinner and would
love to have the fiber to use.

Ann Love:
A cat who would listen to me and give me insights into what life
should be.

:  I’ve wanted a dragon ever
since I was a kid and read (devoured) all of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern Stories.

Debra H. Goldstein: A puppy to cuddle.

Refilling the Well

 by Sparkle Abbey

is finished! We turned in book 8, Raiders
of the Lost Bark.

we turn in a book, the question we get asked most often is, “What’s next?”

getting more than five hours of sleep a night?

refill the creative well.

is exhausting and primarily a solitary occupation. It’s easy to become isolated,
spending months thinking, planning, plotting, writing, and rewriting. It
requires a significant amount of mental energy to stay focused on a creative
project for that long. Yet we only get better by practicing our craft, which
means more writing.

constantly writing, we drain our creativity. At some point we have to give our minds
a break. So how do we give back to that source we’ve so thoroughly drained for

after a quick celebration with margaritas (you knew that was coming, right?),
we begin to take a short mental break from the work and make “refilling the
creative well” our main focus. Since we don’t have a beach close by we have to
come up with other ideas.

we reintroduce ourselves to our families who have probably only seen the backside of
our heads for weeks. Then we may catch up on all the TV shows our families have
recorded for us. Read the books that have been stacked on our nightstands or
added to our Kindles while we were on deadline. We try to catch a movie or two,
and make a concerted effort to restart our exercise plan of daily yoga and
walking. If possible, we’ll attend a writing related workshop or conference. If
we had hobbies, we’d probably take them up again after neglecting them for
favorite way to refill the well is to spend time with our family and friends. We
laugh, make new memories, and experience the world through the eyes of our
grandchildren. Is there anything better than that? We don’t think so either.

after a couple of weeks, once we’ve caught up on housework, social media, and paying
the bills we re-evaluate our goals. We prioritize. Refocus on the steps needed
to take us further in our writing journey.

then we start the madness all over again, because writing is our passion.

about you? How do you refill your well?

As always, if you’d like to stay up on the latest news, new releases or upcoming appearances, sign up for the Sparkle Abbey newsletter at www.SparkleAbbey.com