Thursday, August 30, 2018

Writing in Tandem by Sparkle Abbey

JENN McKINLAY: If you know anything about me at all, by my almost two year tour of duty on Jungle Red Writers, you know that I love to laugh. Well, here is Sparkle Abbey, a duo of writers, who make me laugh every time I see them (usually in line at Starbucks when at a conference) or when I read their work. Seriously, these gals crack me up so now I share them with you!


SPARKLE ABBEY: First, thank you so much for inviting us, Jenn. We’re excited to be here! 
Since we’re new on JRW, we thought we’d start off with a few Sparkle Abbey fun facts.
·     We are friends as well as neighbors.  We live just one street away from each other. We can see each other’s houses from our windows. 
·     We’re both grandmothers and are crazy about our grandchildren. 
·     We both enjoy old movies, especially, the vintage romantic comedies. 
·     We have taken yoga classes together, although Anita (“Abbey”) has been known to fall asleep during the relaxation portion.
·     We love to travel together and usually navigate pretty well. Although once, we did accidently go to Michigan. 
·     We love to plot on road trips.
·     Our favorite drink is a margarita on the rocks or an iced tea. Unfortunately, there have been fewer margaritas as we’ve made a conscience effort to improve our eating habits.  Now we drink soda water and Grey Goose with a twist of lime. Or iced tea.
·     We enjoy writing about relationships – relationships between humans and their pets, mothers and daughters, and best friends. We also like writing about murder.
·     We love to brainstorm fun, over the top titles. 

If you’re not familiar with our books,our series is known for its snicker-worthy titles like Fifty Shades of GreyhoundThe Girl with the Dachshund TattooBarking with the Stars, and The Dogfather. One of the questions we’re asked most often is, “What comes first the title or the plot?”
For us, nine out of ten times, the title comes first. We spend a lot of time brainstorming titles that evoke a sense of humor and lightness that will also correlate with a pet themed series. We enjoy the process, and have been known to drink a couple of margaritas while we pitch ideas. We have pages and pages of possibilities. Some cheesy, some decent, and some that are real “howl” worthy.

We’ve been fortunate to keep all our original titles except for book seven. The original title was Kitty Confidential. The book was about half written when our editor decided she want something “bigger.” Um, sure.  We reviewed our list of options, but didn’t like a single idea. We were finding it difficult to come up with a new title for a story that was already in progress. Honestly, there are only so many good cat themed ideas. Eventually, everyone all agreed on Downton Tabby. All we had to do to make it work was to add a tabby to the story. No problem.
We’re back to brainstorming new titles. We’d love to hear your suggestions. Here are a few titles that more than one person has shared with us to get you in the mood. 
Everybody Sniffs Raymond
How I Bit Your Mother
The Cat of Monte Cristo
Terriers and Tiaras
Catman and Robin 
One lucky commenter will win a signed copy of book 10, The Dogfather, will make its debut September 21st.
Ready. Set. Go!
What about you, Reds? What comes first, the title or the plot? 
Readers, will a title get you to buy a book or not? 

About The Dogfather -
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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 fiancĂ© 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.

About Sparkle Abbey – Sparkle Abbey isthe 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 reside in central Iowa, but if they could write anywhere, you would find them on the beach with their laptops and an iced tea.
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79 comments:

  1. I’m chuckling over all the great titles . . . and congratulations on your newest book.

    I have to say, it’s not very often that a title will get me to buy a book, but it will often get me to pick it up and look . . . .

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    1. I'm the same, Joan. A title will definitely peak my interest!

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  2. I love the titles of your books. I really do. And the books themselves are a lot of fun. I'm still behind in the series, but my next book to read is on my nightstand, which means I will get to it in a couple of weeks.

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    1. Thanks, Mark! We have had a lot of fun with the series, the cousins, and...the brooch! :-)

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    2. I hear you, Mark! I love reading series but keeping up can be a challenge.

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  3. Welcome ladies! You're so lucky to live that close to each other. I would love having the jungle reds down the block...I also loved Kitty Confidential, but that goes to show that I'm in the right place, writing instead of marketing:).

    Will you be at Bouchercon?

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    1. Thanks! We really wish we were going to be at Bouchercon, but sadly we aren't going to make it this year. We love Bouchercon and the Florida location is an added bonus. We're hoping you all will post lots of photos!

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    2. I can't make it to BCon either :( Yes, pictures, ladies!

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  4. Readers remember clever titles (One for the Money, A is for Alibi), though sometimes I wonder how much the title has to do with the plot and characters of the book.

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    1. For us the plots definitely come from the characters so that drives everything, but we do take inspiration from the catchy title and incorporate elements that tie them together. :-)

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    2. Title -plot matchup is such a challenge and if you're trying to be punny - ugh. These ladies have it down.

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  5. I like "Everybody Sniffs Raymond" (why?) and "Terriers and Tiaras."

    Me, I usually go through several titles so the plot definitely comes first.

    Mary/Liz

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    1. Same here! And usually it all starts with the first line popping into my head.

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  6. Hallie again - can't seem to comment under my own name again.
    Those titles are hilarious! And so suggestive. Wishing I lived down the block, too.

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  7. Sparkle Abbey, welcome to Jungle Reds! I remember seeing you at Malice 2016. I love the title Cat of Monte Cristo! And I want to read Downton Tabby :-) . Clever titles!

    QTOD: Did you start writing stories for fun when you were young children or teenagers?

    Diana

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    1. Hi Diana - We love Malice. Such a fun conference! We were both avid readers as children and teenagers and both fans of Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon mysteries. We've talked about what we wrote as kids and agree the storytelling gene came early.

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    2. Hi Sparkle Abbey, thanks! I am a fan of Nancy Drew and writing stories. Malice is a wonderful conference!

      Diana

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  8. Welcome Sparkle Abbey. Did anyone besides me have a Sparkle Plenty doll? LOL

    I look forward to exploring your books and love that your pen name is for your pets and not the local strip joint!

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    1. Thanks, Ann. Did not have a Sparkle Plenty doll, but just Googled it and now I want one!

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    2. Note to self: do not google this, do not google this ;)

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  9. I love your titles! I am not clever enough to help you out with your next title, but I love the suggestions made. And while I don't buy books based on titles alone, they can get me to investigate further.

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    1. Thanks, Marla! That's exactly what we aim for. I don't think I've ever bought a book for the title alone, but it definitely gets me to investigate further. And speaking of titles, is it just us or could Hollywood use some title help? Seems like some great movies lately have not had the most creative titles!

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    2. I'm not really a movie person, but it would be hard for them to beat your titles. Even non-moviegoers like me wouldn't be able to resist seeing Catman and Robin as soon as it hit theaters!

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  10. Good morning! I've seen you ladies at Malice, and you are always laughing together! It's no wonder your books are so much fun to read.

    Do you need a Christmas book? How about Meow, Actually, or Ruff, Actually? And Beauty and the Rotweiler seems like a perfect addition to your lineup.

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    1. Karen, funny you should mention a Christmas book... We'd love to do one. Love your suggestions!

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    2. A Christmas Canine or It's a Wonderful Ruff - okay, I'll stop now.

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  11. I remember meeting these ladies when I was working the signing room at Bouchercon in Long Beach (aka Iowa by the Sea).

    Diamonds are Furever
    Collie Maybe
    Chow, Baby!

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    1. Hi, Lisa. Diamonds Are Furever, Collie Maybe, those are hilarious!

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    2. Long Beach B'Con was so much fun!

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  12. Sparkle Abbey, I find the idea of a writing team truly fascinating: and you have collaborated on so many books, enjoying the same sense of humor--you 2 must have the BEST TIME!

    As for titles, my novel, The Reluctant Fortune-Teller, I had originally titled How to Tell Fortunes with Cards. My agent thought--and I am sure rightly so--that readers would mistake it for a how-to rather than a novel (although in the back, there is a fortune telling guide, too!) so I brainstormed and we picked the current title.

    I must say that when I am choosing to pick up a book to read or not, the title influences me strongly. Title is how you get that first message to the reader: this is what you can expect to feel; this is what this book is about. So it's as important as it is tricky to hit on the right title

    Also on this subject, I'm writing a mystery and had the perfect title for it. Oh, man, I was so excited about how great this title was, and the title really helped me form the characters and subplot. And then, what do you think happened? Another author published a book--right while I was writing my first draft--with almost the exact same title. Now I think I need to come up with something different, and so far, nada.


    Suggestions for titles for your series: I love all the ones that have been suggested here already!

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    1. Great points, Keziah! And we definitely agree. The title is sort of an introduction. You're meeting us (the story) for the first time and it sets the tone. We think Desperate Housedogs or Yip/Tuck or any of the others tells you a bit about whether our kind of story is your cup of tea. Or not. Lookng for dark and intense. Not us. Looking for a twisty mystery with some over-the-top fun. Nice to meet you! :-)

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  13. Your books sound creative, entertaining and captivating. I would enjoy your wonderful books greatly.
    Woof tracks
    Dach him down
    Furevermore

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  14. What fun! Sounds to me like there are plenty of laughs along the road to your books. How do you break down the actual writing chores? Lots of outlining? Group writing sessions with a pitcher of margaritas? I mean, iced tea! I always have working titles for the stuff I'm writing. My current WIP is "King Foundation Proposal" which is due tomorrow. Sigh. Sometimes I also write fiction.

    How about these titles?
    The Good, the Bad, and the Puppy
    Call of the Weimaraner
    Gone With the Whinny
    Citizen Canine
    The Princess Briard

    Whatever you call it, I wish you the best of luck!

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    1. Not that my vote matters, but I LOVE The Good, the Bad, and the Puppy!

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    2. I have certainly had puppies like that, Susan! And now my brain is working overtime, so I offer:
      Manx and the Single Girl
      Dachshunds Are Forever
      Seventy-Six Dog Bones

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    3. Gigi, those are great titles!!!! I'm going to be snickering all day.

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    4. Ohmigosh! Those are some great titles! Like Susan, I'm a bit partial to the puppy one. :-) As far as the writing process, we have a very hybrid process. We plot together, we outline together, but we write every other book. Because the books have two protagonists (cousins) that seems to work. So Sparkle (ML) writes the Caro (pet therapist) books and Abbey (Anita) writes the Mel (pet boutique owner) books. The setting is the same, the secondary characters are the same and we work hard to keep the tone consistent. Probably more than you ever wanted to know about co-writing, huh?

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    5. I think that's amazing. I know I'd have a hard time co-writing with anyone.

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  15. I enjoyed learning about your writing and the books which would be so perfect. The animals are sweet and deserve great titles. Best wishes and much happiness. Your titles are ideal.

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  16. This series is on my reading list.
    I enjoy clever titles. The boarder had a collie, No Drama Pom, Min Pin Kin, A Husky Voice, Not the Greatest Dane, Thor the Thunder Dog, Game of Bones,The Walking Dread

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    1. You had me at Game of Bones!

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    2. That's so funny! Love Game of Bones! Can't believe we think of that? ML (Sparkle) is working on another series under her own name and her first book, due out in December from Kensington is Game of Scones.

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    3. Aw folks, give a big vote to Not the Greatest Dane! He's lovable, but not the smartest bark in the pack.

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  17. There Ain’t Nothing Like a Dane
    Hey There, Corgi Girl
    Wild, Wild, Westie

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    1. Lisa, those are all great! Especially love, There Ain't Nothing Like a Dane. LOL

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  18. I love all those titles! Just when I think I've picked a favorite another one makes me laugh. Titles and covers definitely grab my attention, but the description, plot and if I am familiar with the author all play a bigger part in making a selection.

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  19. I have to say, Everybody Sniffs Raymond made me laugh out loud. I'm still smiling as I type this.

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  20. You two crack me up!! But I want to know what Gigi asked, which is how your co-writing process works?

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    1. Since we've talked with more and more co-writers we've discover our process is a bit unique. I think it's worked for us because we approach writing in a somewhat similar fashion. A pretty involved scene by scene outline but room for creativity as the plot takes shape.

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  21. I love how Americans are so in love with their pets. I have no cats or dogs now, but I once had a boxer named Rocko. My title would be Rocko Stands Alone. Not obviously a pet title but I miss that dog. We didn't keep the dogs confined. We had a large property. They were pretty good about staying on the property. However, sometimes he would wander down the road and find a comfortable spot on hill overlooking a construction site and just sit and watch the workers. I could see him as the only witness to a homicide.

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    1. Rocko seems like he would be the perfect protagonist. :-)

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  22. As soon as I would think of something, someone else would post something similar! Here’s my current list;

    As You Bite It
    Winnie the Poodle
    The Great Catsby
    Jungle Red Biters
    The Muttcracker
    Pomeranian Knights

    DebRo

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    1. DebRo, those are great! I can already see the cover for The Great Catsby. LOL

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  23. Punny titles are fun! We Don't Need No Stinkin' Leashes. Doctors Without Border Terriers.

    The Terrier. Whisker of Death. South Bark. Eat Stay Love.

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    1. Pat, those are fun! Writing these down...

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  24. How I haven't read these books yet, I don't know. I love a good laugh and witty titles, and each of the titles had me chuckling. And, all of the titles the commenters here have offered are hilarious, too. I don't have much time right now, but let me see if I can come up with a few titles. You Had Me at Bow-Wow, The Pug That Came in from the Cold, Bark Wars, Bark Hard, The Usual Paw-prints, Dalmatian Driver, Infernal Dalmatians of the Spotted Kind

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  25. I love good word play/puns.
    Heck, that's part of why I'm still with my husband of 45+ years!
    Libby Dodd

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    1. Forty-five years? Wow, that's awesome. Congratulations to you both, Libby!

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  26. Running in running in!!!! (Just got off the plane..) And so glad to see you two--we've been pals for so long! ANd you are SO funny---love those titles!

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  27. I like the punny titles too. It might not make me buy the book but it might interest me in it. Haven't read any of your books.

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  28. I love really good titles, especially ones with pins. A good title and a great cover will make me pick up a book and read the synopsis of the story. Nine times out of ten I will buy the book.

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  30. Taylor R. Williams - sounds like a fantastic series, thanks for the chance to win one of your books.

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  31. I love your titles! Great titles definitely grab my attention & get me to read the blurb.

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    1. We find the cover and the title are two things that get us to stop and read the blurb, as well. Unfortunately in most cases those are two things that a traditionally published author doesn't have much control over. We been lucky to get to keep all but one of our titles and we've loved all but one of our covers.

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  32. The title gets me to pick up the book and read the description.

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  33. Thanks to you all for participating and for the great titles! Feel free to keep them coming. So many good ones!

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  34. Oh, these suggestions are all so funny and clever!I can't even come up with a single title myself, so I'll just have to throw in a true story. My husband's older sister was allowed to come up with the name for the newest family dog when she was around 10 years old (back in the 50s). The terrier-mutt known as Sparkle Princess lived a good long life!

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  35. If I am eye-browsing for a book, then I definitely am strongly influenced by the cover. If I hear of a book, I can be enthralled by the title or repelled (seldom) by the title. I have skipped over books because I didn't like the cover, and chosen the one with the more aesthetic cover. I actually don't recall having skipped a specific book because of the title, but sure it has happened. A title should give a nudge to what is in the book.

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  36. Hello! I loved the article and hearing about your process. This is a new series for me and I'm looking forward to starting it. I browse the shelves at bookstores and the titles catch my attention, then I read the synopsis. I find a lot of great authors that way. ��

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