Tag Archive for: Raiders of the Lost Bark

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 

Business AND Pleasure

by Sparkle Abbey

We look forward to attending mystery conferences every year.
Congregating in the bar with book lovers and fellow writers, sipping margaritas
while chatting about what books we’ve recently read and which mystery authors
we’d invite to our fictional dinner party. In fact, next weekend we fly to
Suffolk, Virginia for one of our favorite mystery author festivals. http://www.suffolkmysteryauthorsfestival.com/
2010 RWA Conference

The festival is a partnership between the Suffolk Tourism, Suffolk
Public Library, and the Suffolk Center of Cultural Arts. They pick us up at the
airport, throw a welcome reception for all the authors, and provide our meals…basically
they treat authors like rock stars. We love them.

But as much as we enjoy attending these types of events, we’ve
really missed the “writer’s conference.” Writing conferences hold workshops where
we get to hone our craft, become a little more business savvy, and learn new
ways to reach readers who haven’t read our books.  This is where we refill our writer’s-well.

How much luggage can four writers stuff in a minivan?

For years we’ve talked about attending the annual NINC (Novelists,
Inc.) conference. Each time we talk to a fellow writer who has attended, they
gush about what a wonderful time they had and how we really have to go the
following year. Well, guess what? Next month, we’re going! We’re so excited.
And not just because the conference is at the Tradewinds
Island Grand Resort
in St. Pete, Florida. Okay, maybe we’re excited about
that too. It does look pretty amazing, and the resort is ON the beach (everyone
knows we love the beach!) Plus we heard we can get the best grouper sandwich just
a mile from the hotel. We’re looking forward to brushing up on our writing
skills, learning from colleagues with all kinds of publishing experience, and picking
the brains of industry experts. A group of peers where we can discuss
challenges and opportunities unique to the writing industry.

If you’ve attended or plan to attend a writer’s conference
this year, tell us which one and why you’ve chosen that one. Maybe we’ll put it
on our list for next year.

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.

Behind the Scenes

by Sparkle Abbey

Every author works differently and so we thought it might be fun to take you behind the scenes in our work space.

Most of the authors we know write on a computer. Some desktop, some laptop, some tablet. Others write long-hand on a note pad and then transcribe to the computer. That’s not for us. Though we don’t think of ourselves as fast writers, that two-step process would make us very, very s…l…o…w… and drive us crazy. So, we mostly write on a desktop or laptop. Lately we’re trying out standing while writing because we’ve heard too much sitting is not healthy.

We’ll bet you think we look better when we’re writing than we actually do. Perhaps you think we actually put on real clothes and make-up. Some days we do. And then there are other days when comfort is key. Let’s just say, in some cases we really have to think about whether it’s wise to answer the door.

Because when we’re writing we are creating an alternate world, where we work can be really important. We both have busy families and not very quiet homes so an office with a door is essential. And noise-canceling headphones are our friend.

Music can be good, but it depends on what type of scene you’re writing. Dark intense music isn’t helpful when you’re writing a light-hearted scene. Some authors create playlists for each book which sounds like fun, but for us that could easily be a distraction as we hunt to find just the right songs.

Reference books on shelves or in stacks are a part of any writer’s décor and we’re no exception. Although we have the Internet at our fingertips, there are simply times when you have to have that book in your hands. Usually it’s a well-worn favorite with highlighting and sticky notes.

We are planners which is especially important since we write the Pampered Pets series together. We get together and plot the books, but then we write them individually. So, we’ll start with a fairly detailed story grid and then we work from plot points. So our offices have white boards and post-it notes. And also pictures of places, people and pets that help to keep us grounded in the story.

We hope you enjoyed the tour. It’s what we’ve found works for us and it’s how we’ve written our most recent books, DOWNTON TABBY and RAIDERS OF THE LOST BARK. Just like the characters in our books change, the process and the environment changes a bit depending on what other craziness is going on in our lives. But for now, we like the process we’ve landed on and we hope you enjoy the stories we create.

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.

A Working Writers’ Retreat

by Sparkle Abbey

What do you think of when you think of a writing retreat? Do you imagine exotic locations? Maybe a mountain escape? Or a beachside resort? Or maybe an isolated lake cabin? We found some wonderful ones listed in this article from The Write Life. All incredible places we’d love to visit, but we’d argue exotic is not necessarily required for a successful retreat.

Writing Retreat Websites

We recently did a weekend plotting retreat with three other writers who are members of our long-time critique group. And it was a bit different than the ones listed in the article.

Our purposely not exotic location was a nearby town. We had adjoining hotel rooms, a breakfast bar, and restaurants in the area that delivered. We know our limitations and just how easy it is to get distracted if we leave the retreat. (We also brought way too many snacks, but that’s another story.)

We had white boards, flip charts, post-it notes, plenty of markers and this time we also brought magazines and poster board. It can be extremely hard to switch off the day job work week mind and move your brain to creative thinking, so we decided to start the retreat with vision boards.

Each writer chose a particular project (story) to focus on for the retreat and with stacks of magazines by our sides, scissors and glue sticks in hand, we dove in. Each of us created a vision board of images related to our stories. For some it was a story not yet started and for others a story in progress. The main idea of this exercise is not to over-think the selections. To pick out images or words you’re drawn to. As you sort through them you may discard some, add others, move pictures and words around. And through the process, you may discover some new things about your story. Things that may have been lurking in the back of your mind.

The next morning we hit the breakfast bar and then we begin the hard work part of the retreat. Each writer (or in our case writing team) gets a two-hour time slot for plotting. We need to add here that some in the group are hardcore plotters and others, well, not so much. So each writer starts their time with setting the boundaries on what kind of help they’d like during their time slot.

We work. We brainstorm and eat snacks. We take notes and often photos of the notes we’ve made on the white board. And then we move on to the next writer’s story. With a break for lunch, we begin again. Brainstorm, notes, snacks, photos. Then dinner is delivered because we don’t want to change from our yoga pants and sweatshirts. And then…repeat.

By Sunday morning we’ve covered a lot of ground and after hitting the breakfast bar for a dose of energy and much needed caffeine, we’re ready for wrap-up. Each writer gets an hour of clarification or additional brainstorming time because sometimes after you’ve slept on that brilliant idea you find that it’s full of holes.

Other writers’ groups do retreats in different ways, but we’ve found this to be a productive and fun way to work out the kinks in a story idea and to support each other. We’ve done this for several years and it works for us. Still..the beach or the mountains would be nice, right? Maybe next time.

Have you attended a retreat and, if so, what type? A writing retreat? Something to do with your job? Or perhaps something creative like a quilting or scrapbooking retreat? We’d love to hear about your experiences!

And for a little creative get-away at home, we’ll draw from all who leave a comment for this great Cats & Dogs adult coloring book.

Doesn’t it look like fun?

Sparkle Abbey is actually two people, Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter, who write the national best-selling Pampered Pets cozy mystery series. They are friends as well as neighbors so they often write at ML’s dining room table or at the Starbucks up the street. 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 would love to connect with you via their website at: sparkleabbey.com or on Facebook or Twitter.

The latest book in their mystery series is Raiders of the Lost Bark.