Tag Archive for: spark joy

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Gay Yellen: Finding Comfort and Joy

In the before-times, the term “twenty-twenty” usually indicated good news.
“Hey! Your eyesight is normal!” Or, “Wow! Your logic is clear-sighted!”

This year, a not-so-good connotation arose. At the end of December, when calendar turns, twenty-twenty will forever signify our historic year of global pandemic.

At our house, the trials we’ve endured have led us to count our blessings. We survived. So many things that we once took for granted have sustained us and saved us from running naked in the streets, howling like banshees. Through social isolation, family separation and, yes, fear of infection, we’ve learned to count our lucky stars, dim as they sometimes have seemed.

We’ve found a few uplifting—and often downright silly—activities to keep us sane. A friend turned us on to the old TV mystery series, Murdoch, about a 19th Century police detective who sometimes invents forensic tools to solve crimes. The show is easy on the psyche and a much-needed antidote to our relentless daily news.


Even better, we’ve dug out some of my parents’ old LP’s of original Broadway shows. We plunk them on the turntable, sing along with great gusto, and dance around the room until we’re breathless. No worries about looking foolish. After all, no one’s watching.

On nice days, we walk in the park, feed the squirrels, and summon the wintering ducks. My husband’s spot-on Donald Duck impression can spark quite a lakeside conversation.

And sometimes, he cooks. Today, he’s making turkey vegetable soup, a seasonal change from his delicious chopped salads. There’s some to give to neighbors and plenty to freeze for later.

And there’s joy to be found in books. Reading is a great way to while away hours in isolation. Because finishing Book 3 of the Samantha Newman Mystery Series has been my top priority this year, I’ve read less than usual. But gobs of books are in my to-be-read file, and I look forward to the day when I can start whittling the list down.

Finding comfort and joy in small pleasures helps lift our hearts. I hope you’re finding ways to grab some for yourself.

What have you found to spark joy these days?

Wishing you a warm December, full of books and love.

Gay Yellen

P.S. Oh! I almost forgot: Mark your calendar for the last week in December when you can pick up The Body Business, Book #1 in the Samantha Newman Mystery Series, free.

Gay Yellen is a former magazine and book editor. She writes the award-winning Samantha Newman Mystery Series, including The Body Business and The Body Next Door. Book #3 in the series is slated for release in 2021.

Gay would love to hear from you, here, on Facebook, or at her website, GayYellen.com.

Decluttering – The Time Has Come

by Sparke Abbey

This past year we’ve learned a thing or two about decluttering and downsizing. In this era of minimalism, we don’t need as much “stuff” as we might have once believed. And just as we didn’t want to inherit a menagerie of ceramic owls or metal butterflies from our mothers, our children weren’t interested in our amazing book collections, stylish size-seven shoes, or cabbage soup tureen. 

Three garage sales, and more trips than you can count on one hand to local donation centers, we not only decluttered our own homes, we downsized Abbey’s parents’. The process took time, was hard work, yet highly rewarding. And in a crazy way, reminded us of editing or “decluttering” our stories.

Like the rest of America, you’ve certainly heard about Marie Kondo’s “Tidying Up method.” 

  1. Commit yourself to tidying up.
  2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle.
  3. Finish discarding first. Before getting rid of items, sincerely thank each item for serving its purpose.
  4. Tidy by category, not location.
  5. Follow the right order.
  6. Ask yourself if it sparks joy.

Six easy steps, right? Heck, the first two don’t even require physical action. But here’s the reality—the process is never that simple. While the KonMari lifestyle doesn’t “spark joy” for everyone, there are some principals that can be applied to storytelling. So we thought we’d put our spin on Marie’s six steps and create the Sparkle Abbey writing decluttering method.

  1. Commit yourself to unclutter your story. You have to be ruthless. Don’t be afraid to put your writing under a microscope and edit. 
  2. Keep in mind the story you wanted to tell. This will serve as your compass as you unclutter your story. Everything must enhance the story or bring it “joy.” If not, it has to go.
  3. Declutter by category.
    1. Plot – Does your story structure make sense? Are there plot holes? Do your scenes unfold in a way that escalates conflict? Are all the plotlines resolved at the end of the story? 
    2. Subplots – Do your subplots enhance the plot and relate to the overall story goal? Are there too many subplots?
    3. Characters  – Do your characters serve a purpose? Do they have goals, motivation? Do they bring conflict? Are there too many characters? Are the characters unique?
    4. Clarity and Concise – How’s the pacing? Are you showing or telling the story? Is there too much or too little description? Is there too much or too little dialogue? 
  4.  Does your story spark joy? – You’ve carefully decluttered your masterpiece. Does it still bring you joy? It should. Remember step number two. Be careful that you don’t edit the life out of your story.

This isn’t a comprehensive list, but it’s a good start to tidy up your story. Whether you’re tidying up your home or your writing, the process requires you to make a judgment on what is important and what’s just “stuff” taking up space.

Have you jumped on the “tidying up” wagon? We’d love to hear any tips you have for organizing your home or your story! 

Sparkle Abbey is actually two people, Mary Lee Woods aka 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 neighbors.) 

They love to hear from readers and can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, their favorite social media sites.Their most recent book is The Dogfather, the tenth book in the Pampered Pets series.
Also, if you want to make sure you get updates, sign up for their newsletter via the SparkleAbbey.com website.