Thursday, May 08, 2014

Joy in the Journey: Sparkle Abbey

We are thrilled to be a part of Cheryl St.John’s Month of Joy. It was a request with perfect timing as we’d just had a discussion about remembering to have joy in the journey. You see, often when you start a trip you have plans. You make preparations, you map out where you’re going, and then you set out. If you’re lucky, you have some adventures along the way.

After many years of writing (and rejections) in 2011 we signed a contract with Bell Bridge Books for the first four books in the Pampered Pets Mystery Series. (The series features two amateur sleuths, Caro, a pet therapist, and Melinda, a pet boutique owner. They are great fun to write and that’s a joy in itself, but more about that later.)

Now, three years later, we’d have to say it’s been an incredible journey but, that said, not exactly a cruise down the freeway. Perhaps more of a two-lane highway with unplanned detours and side trips. And sometimes hairpin turns. There’s an awful lot that can happen on a journey.

Last year on our way from Iowa to a mystery conference in Bethesda, Maryland we, uhmm, sort of missed a turn and ended up in Michigan. Yes, you’re remembering your geography correctly. Michigan is not on the way from Iowa to Maryland. No problem. We stopped, took a look at the map, and planned how we’d reroute. Done. Off we went down a two-lane road that would get us back on track. It was a beautiful drive with rolling hills, trees, and meandering rivers. And, what was that up ahead? A sign for The Chocolate Garden. The sign promised “extraordinary handmade truffles.” In fact, their chocolate truffles had been featured on The Food Network, Fine Living, and the Travel Channel.

Of course, we stopped. We did a chocolate tasting, chatted with the people, and bought some truffles for the road. What a great detour! And, isn’t life like that? If you bemoan the mistakes, the detours, and the oops-we’re-in-Michigan-moments, you may miss the chocolate.

For us, the whole journey from that first contract has had twists, turns and surprises. We’ve gone from that beginning to: signing with an agent, being a #1 mystery series on Amazon, #1 bestseller on Nook, and recently signing a contract for books seven and eight. So. Amazing.

But we both have full-time jobs. We’re also wives, moms, and grandmothers and you’d better believe we don’t want to miss out on a minute of those blessings. So that means we are really busy. Really, really busy. Did we mention that we’re busy? Some weeks are a just a blur.

But if you’re too caught up in the blur you miss the joy. You have to take the time to stop and enjoy the journey.  We are extremely thankful for the opportunity to continue to write books that we love. We need to remember to take the time to savor that joy. We recently got an email from a reader who shared that one our books had lifted her up on a particularly low day.  Wow, what a compliment. In fact, for us that’s the ultimate compliment. A joy we should take the time to celebrate.

We get reader emails from around the country as well as Canada, Brazil, and the UK. We so appreciate that readers take the time to write to us, review our books, and tell us they are waiting for the next one. We can’t even begin to tell you how cool that is. But in the on-to-the-next-thing day to day rush, we need to remind ourselves to stop, take a deep breath, and say, “Wow,”

We’ve had the opportunity through our co-writing to talk with several other writing duos. Among them: Waverly Curtis (friends Waverly Fitzgerald and Curt Colbert), Charles Todd (mother and son, Caroline and Charles Todd) and Murder She Wrote’s Jessica Fletcher/Donald Bain (husband and wife, Don Bain and Renee Paley-Bain), as well as Lee Goldberg from the Monk books who has also penned a series with Janet Evanovich. In fact, Don and Renee’s cat, Maggie, provided a cover quote for our next book, Fifty Shades of Greyhound. How fun is that? All of these writers are not only talented, they’re charming and generous. It would be a shame to let these experiences get lost in the whirlwind and not pause for a few minutes to really take in the sheer fun that’s been.

Regardless of whether you’re a reader or a fellow writer, we’ll bet there are times you have one thing planned and then, oops, there are detours or unplanned stops. Or maybe times when your life is so busy that you forget to enjoy all the blessings along the way. It’s so very important to remember not get caught up in blur and miss out on the joy. Much like our unplanned visit to Michigan, the road trip of life often has something fabulous for you just around that next turn. 

Here’s our advice on finding joy in the journey: Stop and taste the chocolate!

The Authors:
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). They write the popular pet mystery series with whodunits set in the wacky world of pampered pets, precious pedigrees, and secrets. The books feature cousins and former Texas beauty queens, Caro Lamont and Melinda Langston. Desperate Housedogs, an Amazon #1 Mystery Series bestseller and Barnes & Noble Nook #1 bestseller, was followed by Get Fluffy, Kitty, Kitty, Bang, Bang, and Yip/Tuck. Fifty Shades of Greyhound is up next.

Coming soon!
Fifty Shades of Greyhound
“Catnip for mystery fans.”
~ Maggie, the cat of USA Today best-selling author, Donald Bain (Murder, She Wrote Series)

“Gives roll over and play dead a whole new meaning!”
~ Ethel Merman & Ella Fitzgerald, canine companions to award-winning author Holly Jacobs (Maid in LA mystery series)

It was a killer party.
Caro Lamont, Laguna Beach’s favorite pet therapist is thrilled to support the elite fundraising gala for Greys Matter, a SoCal greyhound rescue group. All the guests in the couture-attired crowd are clad in varying shades of grey, the champagne and donations are flowing, and there are fifty gorgeous greyhounds in attendance. But before the evening ends a stranger in their midst is dead.

Caro sets out to help the rescue group find out the identity of the mystery guest, but soon finds herself in the doghouse with homicide detective, Judd Malone. Oh, and federal agent, John Milner. When there’s a second death, Caro is convinced she’s on the track of someone who wants a secret to stay buried, but it’s a race to see whether Caro can uncover the truth before the killer decides she’s next up.

Full of adorable pampered pets, the story re-visits lovely Laguna Beach, and some of the colorful characters readers have come to love in previous titles: Desperate Housedogs, Get Fluffy, Kitty Kitty Bang Bang, and Yip/Tuck.


  1. Can't wait to read your books, it sounds like the books with be so much fun reading. Thanks to all of you for writing such wonderful books.

  2. Mickey - Thanks! We have a lot of fun writing them.

  3. Thank you for great books! And I would like to see a roadsign that says "Chocolate Garden" lol!

  4. Love your books. I am eager to read the latest.

    1. Barbara - We're really excited about this book. It was so much fun to research and to write. And that cover (sigh) it's our favorite so far. :-)

  5. Great title, and what a great mystery trip!! Are you "smitten with the mitten?" I'm gonna have to figure out where that chocolate shop is, and head there soon. Can't be too far. Worth the gas and time!! ;-D

    1. Meg - It's called the Chocolate Garden and we'd like to help with the location but...well, maybe you shouldn't take directions from us. LOL

  6. How fun!! And I found a new author.

  7. The Chocolate Garden is in Coloma, ladies. At least, that's the only one I know of in West Michigan. There could be more, but I know this one has exquisite chocolates. Sparkle Abbey, if you had made a little detour north, you'd have hit Grand Rapids. Would've loved meeting you. Have you considered a map? (just kidding)

  8. Thanks, Loralee. That sounds right. The chocolates were incredible! Would have loved to have met you in person. :-) And yes, we had a map...and an iPad. I think the problem might have been that we were talking and not paying attention. Imagine that, huh?

  9. mmm, chocolate could never be a bad side trip. :) I'm so glad to hear there's even more Pampered Pets Mysteries to come! That is a joy in itself!

  10. Just got an email note from Bell Bridge Books and FIFTY SHADES OF GREYHOUND is out! Of course, popped over to Amazon to look and there it was. The thrill never gets old. :-)

  11. Detours from the expected route so often provides an experience you would never ever want to have missed. Hard to believe you could possibly end up in Michigan going from Iowa to DC, but just think of what you'd have missed if you hadn't. So here's the celebrating detours...

  12. Absolutely, Skeywriter. From here on out we're celebrating detours. :-)

  13. Okay drawing now ::::drumroll:::: and the winner is: lizzie starr!
    Please email us at with your mailing address and which book you'd like to have us send you.

  14. Thanks everyone for hanging out with us and a HUGE thanks to Cheryl for inviting us. And always remember to "Stop and taste the chocolate!"