Monday, October 24, 2011

Mondays With Mike: Sparkle Abbey and a New Mystery Series

Mary Lee with Sparkle (l) and Anita with Abbey
PEOPLE WHO KNOW me know that I love animals so when I found two local writers authoring a new “Pampered Pets Mysteries” I had to find out more.  The writers are Mary Lee Woods (Sparkle) and Anita Carte (Abbey) who write under the name … well, you guessed it … Sparkle Abbey.  Their first book, Desperate Housedogs (how’s that for a title!) will be released next week, so please meet Sparkle and Abbey.
Mike:  Welcome, both of you.  First tell me a little bit about you as Sparkle Abbey then something about Mary Lee and Anita.
Sparkle Abbey:  We write the Pampered Pets mystery series together as Sparkle Abbey. We're also friends and neighbors so you'll often find us writing at ML's dining room table or at our local Starbucks. We live in central Iowa, but if we could write anywhere, you would find us on the beach with our laptops and depending on the time of day either an iced tea or a margarita.
Here’s a little bit about each of us:
Mary Lee is an avid reader and supporter of public libraries. She lives in Central Iowa with her husband, Tim, and Sparkle, the rescue cat. In her day job she is the non-techie in the City of Des Moines IT Department. Any spare time she spends reading and enjoying her sons and daughter-in-laws, and four grandchildren.
In Anita’s day job, she works for a staffing company in sales and marketing. She also lives in Central Iowa with her husband and four children, son-in-law, grandchild and two rescue dogs, Abby and Chewy. Her family is glad all the years of “fending for yourself” dinners of spaghetti and frozen pizza have finally paid off even though they haven't stopped.
Mary Lee is President and Anita is Vice-President of Sisters in Crime – Iowa.
M:  How did you decide to team up to write? 
SA: We had belonged to the same critique for several years and had been writing and submitting separately. This was a concept we came up with together and so we decided to team up on the series.
M:  And what are the mechanics of writing as a team? 
SA:  We’ve taken a unique approach to co-writing. The Pampered Pets Mystery Series features amateur sleuths who are cousins. Books 1 & 3 star Caro Lamont, a psychologist turned pet therapist, and books 2 & 4 star Melinda Langston, a dog boutique owner. We share the Laguna Beach setting and some quirky secondary characters. Also, the cousins have cameos in one another’s books. We work closely together on the outline and we frequently work across the table from one other.
M:  How did you come up with the name “Sparkle Abby”?
SA: When our publisher asked us to choose a pen name we chose to use Sparkle Abbey because we liked the idea of combining the names of our two rescue pets - Sparkle (ML's cat) and Abbey (Anita’s dog). Our other choice was “Chewbacca Matisse” our other pets but Sparkle Abbey seemed a little catchier.
M:  Have either of you written “solo”?
SA:  We’ve both written solo for several years and have each won writing contests but this is the first fiction publication for either of us.
M:  Can you tell me a little about your upcoming Pampered Pets mystery series?  I understand the first book in the series Desperate Housedogs is being released the first of November.  Can you give me a teaser on it? And the upcoming books in the series, Get Fluffy, Kitty, Kitty, Bang, Bang and Yip Tuck.
SA:  Desperate Housedogs (Nov 1, 2011):
  When Caro Lamont, former psychologist turned pet therapist makes a house call to help a client with his dogs, she expects frantic dogs, she expects a frantic dog owner, she even expects frantic neighbors.  What Caro doesn’t expect is that two hours later her client is dead and she is knee deep in murder doo doo. Now with a killer on the loose, her best friend, Diana, in jail, and the police suspicious of her motives, Caro is chasing her tail, sniffing out a killer, and hoping the killer doesn’t find her first.
Get Fluffy (Early 2012):
Disgraced Texas beauty queen, Melinda (Mel) Langston owns Laguna Beach’s Bow Wow Boutique. Mona Michaels, Mel’s most despised client, owns a star dog, Fluffy, who's worth millions.  When Mona is found whacked in the head with Fluffy’s Daytime Emmy, everyone wants Fluffy…except Mel. And someone won't stop at murder to get what they want. Secrets...Blackmail...Kidnapping... Mel is like a dog with a bone. But can she dig up the truth before the killer buries her.
Kitty, Kitty, Bang, Bang
When Caro's friend and neighbor, Kitty Bardot, is found gunned down on Pacific Coast Highway just minutes after leaving a star-studded holiday party at the posh Laguna Montage, the police are stumped.  The popular Hollywood publicist was well-loved by not only her clients but everyone in the art community and the police seem ready to call Kitty a road rage casualty. But when Laguna art patrons begin contacting Caro with catty tidbits of information that hint at a scandal in Kitty's past, Caro is determined to get to the bottom of who shot Kitty.
Yip Tuck:
Laguna Beach's top plastic surgeon, Jack O'Doggle drops dead in front of the Mel’s shop the Bow Wow Boutique. The last person to see him alive was his blind date and Mel’s best friend…Darby. Mel and Darby put their amateur sleuth skills to the test once again as they expose the doctor's double life as a drag queen named “Jackie O” and the long list of performers who wanted top billing.
M:  What started each of you writing? 
ML: I started writing because I loved reading so much. Like many authors it seems like I’ve always written in one form or another, but it was really my love of mysteries that started me thinking I’d like to try my hand at writing one.
Anita: I love reading and storytelling. Even in my everyday life, when I’m recounting what happened throughout the day, it’s a story. In the 5th grade there was a class assignment to create a book, which had to include a story and a book cover. I still have that book. It’s bad, but I love it. After that I must have been bitten by the writing bug. I wrote poems, songs, and novels. But it wasn’t until 1998 that I started writing toward the goal of publication
M: What are your writing habits? In other words, do you write each day, morning, evening, etc.?
ML:  I’d like to have more time to write. My life is very full and that’s a wonderful thing! However, with crazy busy family life and crazy busy work life, I find writing is mostly an evenings and weekend pursuit. I do try to write a little or plot a little everyday to keep my head in the story.
Anita: Since I work fulltime, I don’t always have large writing blocks. I write after work and on the weekends. I found I really can be creative while writing under a true deadline.
M:  Do you have any special marketing plans or contests for Desperate Housedogs?
SA: We do have some special marking plans!
We will a guest at Joanna Campbell Slan’s Facebook Halloween Party sometime between 9:00 PM and midnight.
We’ll be hosting a “Yappy Hour” dog walk from 5:00 to 7:00 PM on November 11th in Des Moines’ Historic East Village which will benefit Raccoon Valley Animal Sanctuary and Rescue.
We also will be partnering with the ARL of Central Iowa on their “Raise Your Paw” auction for naming rights to feature a lucky bidder’s pet’s name in an upcoming Pampered Pets book.
M:  Any hobbies, etc. for spare time?
SA: What spare time? LOL We both have very active family lives and so pretty much any time not spent working or writing is family time. If we had more time, we both love to travel. Maybe someday.
M: How can readers contact you?
SA: Readers can reach us through our website at or via email at  Also, if readers are interested in other books featuring furry friends, we have a website that lists other mystery authors with pet-themed books at:
Our books are available through your local bookseller or on Amazon or Barnes and Noble online; and all are available in e-format for Kindle or Nook.
M:  Can you give us some information on the book launch for Desperate Housedogs?
SA:  Yes, here it is:
The book launch will be November 1st at the Des Moines Public Library Downtown (1000 Grand) at 6:30 PM. We’ve partnered with the Animal Rescue League of Central Iowa for the launch and so they’ll also be on site with some information. We invite readers and writers to join us for a short talk, booksigning, and some giveaways. For those who live too far away to make the launch, we’re inviting those who would like to participate in a Desperate Housedogs “flash mob” where sometime on November 1, they visit Amazon or Barnes & Noble and check out what the book’s about and if they like what they see they - “Like” us.
M:  I’d like to thank you both for taking the time to be with me today; good luck on the launch and the entire series.
SA: Thanks so much for inviting us! As you can tell, we’ve had a lot of fun writing the books and we’re pretty excited about the launch of the series.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mondays With Mike: Novelist and Freelancer Angela Roe

IN ONE OF my first writers groups I met Angela K. Roe.  Angie was not only a good writer; she was an excellent editor and made numerous suggestions to my early manuscripts which contributed greatly to their success.  She is a romance novelist, freelance writer, and a freelance photographer. She has a variety of published Ebooks and online articles based on topics as diverse as home improvement, ballroom dancing, fitness, marketing and research, computer programs and business associations. She also provides SEO copy to industry-leading Web content providers and is happily married to her best friend. She and her husband share five children, nine grandchildren, a dog and a fish and what she terms “a crazy rollercoaster of a life and we depend on each other to make through the laughter and the tears.”
Mike:  Welcome to my blog and thanks for joining us today.  First, can you tell me a little bit about your novels This Montana Man, and It was Snowing?
Angela: This Montana Man is a romance novel about a writer who rents a rundown house on the land of Jamie Overton so she can hide from a crazed stalker while she writes her next book. The romance doesn’t stay on the pages of her book, though and the stalker finds her in a small Montana town. See how the town rallies around her to keep her and her handsome landlord, Jamie, safe. It Was Snowing is a short story that shines a light on a marriage, during one of the most stressful times a marriage, can endure the loss of twins through miscarriage. This one is a personal story as it's a true recounting of what my husband and I went through in March of 1999.
M:  And your other books: The Creeps, The Journey, and Carried Away?
A: The Creeps is a collection of short stories, all with a twist. There are 4 short stories that range from the murder of a pediatric nurse to a Halloween story about a bookstore that's a neighborhood favorite. The Journey is a single short story about what happens after you die, or at least my hope of what happens after you die. This is another one that's near my heart as I wrote it as a way to say goodbye when my grandmother passed away. Carried Away is a collection of short stories about the passengers on a cross-country train. When I see trains, I always wonder who is on them and why, what their stories are and where they're going so I wrote about them. It's an on-going series with another set to come out at the end of October.
I have another book under contract with Echelon Press entitled Stormy Encounters that's set to come out sometime in mid-2012. I'm thrilled to be under contract with it and I'm working with a terrific group of people.
M: How did you get published? In other words, what was your road to getting your books before the public?
A: I've listened to other authors whose experiences with traditional publishing were not positive or sometimes, even ethical. That combined with the lengthy time between acceptance and publication, led my husband and I to look into self-publishing. I'm fortunate to have a husband in the computer industry so he's very analytical and well-versed in formatting and other computer-speak processes. With a bit of time, he published my books.
M:  What started you writing?
A: I've always been a writer. According to my mom, I wrote before I knew how to write and would tell stories to anyone who would listen. When I'd get upset as a child, I'd rewrite the reality of the situation to change the outcome. It was a pretty handy way to deal with two older brothers.
M: What are your writing habits? In other words, do you write each day, morning, evening, etc.?
A: For me personally, if I don't write every day, I lose interest in the story. Plus, I get distracted by day to day life and before I realize it, two years has passed and I'm still on page six. That being said, I'm also a deadline-driven person so being in a writer's group is a requirement. If I'm not held accountable by the expectation of presenting to a writer's group, I'm far more likely to get distracted.
M:  Anything upcoming?
A: As I mentioned, Volume 2 of Carried Away is coming up at the end of this month and Stormy Encounters is due out mid-2012. I've got some collaborations planned with Stephen L. Brayton in the works and I'm also outlining the second in the Walkers Ridge series. This Montana Man is the first in that series.
M:  Any hobbies, etc. for spare time?
A: We're very active in church and in the neighborhood so there isn't much spare time in our lives. My husband sings in just about every choir in the church and I am active in a couple of the women's groups. We love to spend time with the kids and the grandkids and of course, the entire house is filled with books. I can always find time to read a good book!
M:  How can readers contact you?
A:  Feel free to visit my website at, my blog site, or they can email me at
My books are currently only available in ebook form so those who only buy ebooks are in good shape. Purchase my books on Smashwords, Barnes and Noble and Amazon.
M:  Thank you for your time.
A:  Thank you.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Wendy Delsol Spotlight in the Des Moines Register

ONE OF MY writer friends, Wendy Delsol, was the subject of a feature in today’s Des Moines Register, which you can read here.  Wendy’s new book, Frost, will be launched at a party at the Des Moines Library this Tuesday, October 18 at 6:30 p.m., during the library’s Author Talk and Reading program. The public is invited.   Wendy is a member of our Published Authors Liaison group. You can read my interview with Wendy from last November here.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mondays With Mike: Children's Author Rebecca Janni

ONE OF THE local writing groups I meet with is made up of traditionally published authors, we call it Published Authors’ Liaison (PAL) and we even have a blog and a Facebook page.  The group contains an eclectic group of writers which makes it so much fun.  This week I’m pleased to have one of our PAL members, children’s author Rebecca Janni.

Mike:  Thank you for taking the time to be with us today.  Can we start with a little background about you?
Rebecca: I learned early on that biking was the best way to get around the neighborhood and reading was the best way to get around the world. On a bus ride home from school, I told a friend that I was working on a novel about a girl and her horse. I never finished the novel, but a horse of a different hoof shows up in Every Cowgirl Needs a Horse and Every Cowgirl Needs Dancing Boots, both published by Dutton Children's Books. I have two more picture books forthcoming and several projects on my desk. Today, I divide my time between volunteering, adjunct teaching, and writing -- all of which take a back seat to motherhood! I live in Iowa with my husband, four children, and a big-hearted dog named Mickey. I love to read and bike with my family, but not at the same time.

M:  Can you tell me a little bit about the idea for your “every cowgirl” books? 
R: My daughter – five years old at the time – had just learned how to ride her bike without training wheels. Riding was her new obsession. She came inside dressed from head to toe in her cowgirl finest, all out of breath and rosy-cheeked. “How's my bicycle cowgirl?” I asked, and I couldn't stop thinking about that character. Then, our family would go riding on the local bike trails, and I found myself telling the kids to “get back in the saddle” or “whoa!” On the longest rides, I even felt saddle sore!

M: What is the age range of your target audience?

R:  3-8 years old

M:  What is different about writing for children than other forms of writing?  Are there any special challenges you face?

R: I believe the best writing crosses genres. As an adult, I still love to read picture books and YA novels. And if I come across a breathtaking passage or something hysterically funny in an adult novel (something appropriate, mind you), I will share it my children right away.

But writing picture books does require an economy of words. It's a challenge that makes the stories stronger in the end. Like a poet, a picture book writer chooses every word carefully and leaves space for the illustrations to tell part of the story.

M:  In a picture book, like yours, how is an illustrator chosen and how well do writers and illustrators work together?

R:  In my experience, when a publishing house acquires a manuscript, they have an art director and an editorial team who choose the illustrator for the book. I couldn't be happier with the choices they made! Lynne Avril is a dream – an artist, a cowgirl, a musician and a lovely person. I think her artwork is the perfect fit for Nellie Sue's adventures. And Tracy Dockray, the illustrator for Jammy Dance – is amazing too. I'm still in awe of the movement in her artwork for Jammy Dance – these characters really do dance!

M: How do you market you books?

Rebecca and "fans" at a local B&N
R:  I'm learning more about the marketing end of publishing from groups like PAL (Published Authors Liaison), SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators), DAWG (Des Moines Area Writers Group), and my own magical writing group, with authors Jan Blazanin, Eileen Boggess, and Sharelle Byars Moranville. And I try to say yes to as many events – online or in person – as I possibly can.

M: What started you writing? 

R: I was very young. Reading, I guess. I loved getting lost in stories, loved traveling to other places and walking in so many shoes, loved the magic in words. I suppose I decided I wanted to try my hand at it, creating magic from words.

M: What are your writing habits? In other words, do you write each day, morning, evening, etc.?

R:  I write when my youngest is at preschool or after the kids are in bed . . . in the cracks, whenever I can.

M:  Anything upcoming?

R: Yes, Jammy Dance comes out February 14, with FSG and my third cowgirl book, Every Cowgirl Loves a Rodeo, comes out in May 2012 with Dial Books for Young Readers.

M:  Any hobbies, etc. for spare time?

R:  Besides horseback riding, I mean, bike riding? I enjoy hiking, traveling, singing, praying, reading, cooking, and spending time with family and friends.

M:  How can readers contact you?

R:  There's an “email me” button on my website,

M:  Are any of your books available in ebook form?

R:  I'm so glad you asked. Every Cowgirl Needs a Horse is available on the Nook and soon to be available on the I-Pad.

M:  Thank you so much for taking time with us, and good luck with your upcoming releases.

R:  Thank you, it was my pleasure.

Monday, October 3, 2011

First Monday Guest: Report on Bouchercon 2011

Jerry (R) with Johathon King
By Jerry Hooten
THE WORLD’S LARGEST gathering of mystery writers (Bouchercon) was held in St. Louis, Missouri this year.  The event took place in the Renaissance Hotel, one of the finest hotels in St. Louis.  Guests of honor included, Robert Crais and Charlaine Harris as the American Guests of Honor, International was shared by Colin Cotterill and Val McDermid.  The life Time Achievement Award went to Sara Paretsky.  Fan Guests of Honor were Kate Stine and Brian Skupin.  Toastmaster was Ridley Pearson. Over 1600 people attended.
The convention hotel has been sold out for over a year, as well as some of the closer alternative hotels.  I arrived at the Peach Tree Drury Inn on Thursday and after checking in, drove the short distance to the convention.  I was able to park close to the hotel and became friends with the parking attendant over the four days I parked there.
One of the first writers I met was Jonathon King, author of the Max Freeman series.  I first met Jonathon when he won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best First Novel by an American author for his book, The Blue Edge of Midnight.
Jonathon and I caught up with what was new with us and mutual friend, Michael Connelly.  Jonathon was on the panel for “The challenges of writing your next book”, which I attended also.
I ran into a few Iowa authors too, notably, Max Allen Collins, his wife Barbara, and Shirley Damsgaard.  I was able to sit in on their panels as well.  All of the panels were interesting.  Some I had to miss due to scheduling.  It always happens that some that I would like to attend are scheduled at the same time.
I had just finished reading Steve Hamilton’s Lock Artist before going to Bouchercon.  I ran into Steve just before the awards ceremony.  I told him how much I enjoyed the story.  Shortly after, he won an award for it.  We met later, and he invited me to join him and his U.K. publisher and his agent in the lounge.  I was just a little awed to be in such distinguished company!
I have attended quite a few Bouchercons.  This was one of the best!  Next year, it will be held in Cleveland, Ohio.  I’ve worked in Cleveland and like the city.  It has the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and there used to be an area called the Flats that was the entertainment center of the town.  The hotel will be the Cleveland Marriott Renaissance.  If you plan to attend, I’d highly recommend making your reservations now.  More information is available about the hotel and the convention at:
Jerry Hooten is the author of five mystery novels, his latest is Hunter, which is available in paper as well as e-book edition.  You can check out his Amazon page here. You can also read my earlier interview with Jerry here. Jerry’s webpage is