Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Two for the Price of One – Writing Together with Guest/s Sparkle Abbey

Mary Lee and Anita aka Sparkle Abbey

2013 is shaping up to be a busy year for Sparkle Abbey! Kitty Kitty Bang Bang, our third book, came out the end of December and we just turned in Yip/Tuck which will be the fourth book in the Pampered Pets mystery series. We’re busy promoting the first three books and last weekend we plotted out books five and six. Our writing friends ask all the time, “How do you do it?”

Well, the trick is there are two of us. Collaboration has been such a blessing for us, we’re having so much fun with the series and these projects have done well. However, we like to tell other writers who are considering collaboration, the good news is there are two of us and the bad news is there are two of us.

Here’s how we ended up writing together

We had belonged to the same RWA chapter and the same critique group for several years and had been writing and submitting fiction separately. We’d both received very “good” rejections from publishers and agents and then had a conversation with a NY agent at a RWA conference. Her advice on high-concept hooks was brilliant and we brainstormed some ideas. Because the idea of setting a mystery in the world of people and their pets was something we came up with together, we decided to team up on the series.

We could have done this a number of different ways

There are many different ways of working together on a book. Here are a few.
•    Division of Talents – One writer outlines and plots the story. The other does all the writing. One or both may polish the completed story.
•    Chapter by Chapter – The two plot the story together and then each writer takes a chapter.
•    Sentence by Sentence, Word by Word – Everything is written together.

We’ve taken a somewhat unique approach to co-writing in that we take turns writing the individual books. The odd-numbered books star Caro, a psychologist turned pet therapist, and are written by Mary Lee. The even-numbered books star Mel, a pet boutique owner, and are written by Anita. We share the stories’ Laguna Beach setting and some quirky secondary characters. Also, the two main characters, who are cousins, have cameos in one another’s books. We work closely together on the outline for the series and the individual books and we frequently work across the table from one another either at ML’s dining room table or at Starbucks. But each of us writes a full book. It works for us.

Others use different methods. Lynn Kerstan and Alicia Rasley worked together completely via email. The result was Gwen’s Ghost, the first collaboration to win a Rita award. When asked her advice to those considering a joint project, Lynn says, “For me, mutual respect between collaborators is the prime value. A sense of humor is a close second.”

On the other hand, some do the co-writing in person. Donald and Renee Bain who write the “Murder She Wrote” books share office space. Don has an office and Renee has an office and they each work separately but between their offices is a conference room. They meet there to hash out details. Don says, “We're both good at putting aside our egos in the interest in coming up with the best book possible. We have a rule that if something in the manuscript causes one of us to pause and ponder, it probably needs fixing.”

Ellery Adams and Sylvia May, who write the NY Times bestselling “Novel Idea” mystery series as Lucy Arlington, also co-write via technology. They brainstorm over the phone and set-up a writing schedule. Once the schedule is established, one writes the first half of a chapter and then the other critiques it and writes the second half.

There are other variations of writing together such as Joyce and Jim Lavene, who have written over 60 books together and have published in almost every genre. Their computers are networked together and they tell the story back and forth until they have a first draft. Once they have a first draft, they read the manuscript aloud. Joyce says, “You have to really trust another person to share the first inklings of ideas you might have, those delicate, fragile things that can be easily destroyed by the wrong words from another person”.

You’ll remember we said the good news is there are two of us and the bad news is there are two of us.

First the good news

Two heads really are better than one. We plot together. We work out story problems together. There is a wonderful synergy and a creative boost in working with another writer. It’s the best!

The responsibility is split. We work on promotions together. When one of us is on deadline, the other can continue work on other things.

You have company on the crazy train. Truly publishing is a crazy business and being in it together provides incredible moral support.

You have someone to share the ups and downs of the journey and someone to celebrate with when the book is done or when it hits that bestseller list. (Desperate Housedogs hit #1 in Amazon’s Bestselling Mysteries last year. Whoo hoo!)

And now the bad news

It’s not all about you. Every step of the way there will be compromise.

You’ll need to spend time finding just the right creative process. What worked for you individually may not work when writing with someone else.

You make half the money. While the responsibilities are split, so are the advances. So is the royalty check.

Oh, and did we mention it’s not all about you…

The legal aspects of collaboration

There’s more than just the creative part of going down the path of co-writing a book. You’ll need to decide if you want to incorporate or not. Additionally, we recommend (and our publisher required) a collaboration agreement. We laughingly tell folks this is the most depressing document we’ve ever worked on – and we’re only partly kidding. The agreement will spell out who is responsible for what, what happens if one of you is incapacitated, or dies. What happens if one author wants to continue and the other does not. It’s pretty much a pre-nuptial agreement for authors.

Other important things

Much like a marriage, it’s important that you share the same values. That you agree on priorities. We can’t stress this point enough. Family is important to both of us and trumps everything else. We both believe in hard work and getting things right. Also, as is true in any relationship, communication is key. Keep the communication channels open. We were friends before we were co-writers and we remain friends today.

If you’re considering working with another writer on a project, you need to have an open discussion about what that means. We started down this path for a number of reasons and have been truly blessed by the opportunity to work together on a really fun series. That said, what works for us so well may not work for others at all, but we’re always happy to answer questions about our experience and what we’ve learned along the way, so feel free to post your questions or email us if you think of them later.

A huge thanks to Tina Radcliffe and Seekerville for inviting us!

Mary Lee and Anita aka Sparkle Abbey

Sparkle Abbey is the pseudonym of mystery authors Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter who co-write the Pampered Pets Mystery Series. 

Book One: Desperate Housedogs
Book Two: Get Fluffy
Book Three: Kitty Kitty Bang Bang
Book Four: Yip/Tuck (coming summer 2013)

Sparkle Abbey has generously donated Books 1, 2 and 3 in the Pampered Pets series that will be given to one commenter. But you must leave a comment tell us you'd like to win! Winner announced in the Weekend Edition!


  1. I'm first! I'm first!

    You are two talented and amazing ladies. I knew as soon as I heard you were writing together that you'd created an ingenious plan.

    I enjoyed hearing how you worked out a lot of the details ahead of time.

    You've worked very hard, and you both deserve success. Blessings to you, my friends.

    Cher :-)

  2. I guess two guests means we need two huge pots of coffee. They're ready.

    Collaboration sounds interesting, but I doubt anyone would ever be crazy enough to want to team up with me.

    It's nice to hear how it works for you two.


  3. I'm so glad Tina invited you two. These books sound fabulicious! And something my mother would like. She's kind of hard to buy for.

    Thanks for giving us some insight in team writing.

  4. Thanks, Cheryl. It's thanks to friends like you who have been so generous with your knowledge that we're able to pull it off. Smooches!

  5. Thanks for getting the coffee ready, Helen. :-)

  6. I'm so thankful Tina invited you over. Totally cool way to collaborate. The only person I've ever considered writing with is my sis. So far no luck convincing her! The books sound great and I'd love the opportunity to win them.

    Tina - i finally settled on a word for the year - FOCUS. Believe me I need it.

  7. Writing Together, I hadn't thought about this since my daughter and I started a book oh so many years ago.
    I wonder if we could still do that. . Thanks for bringing it up Sparkle Abbey makes me think.
    Please enter me in the drawing.

  8. Christina - Thanks for your comments. Love the word "fabulicious."

  9. Terri - Focus is a great word for the year. We have a lot of fun writing the books and it was interesting to talk to other authors and find out how they co-write.

  10. Mary - Glad we made you think about it. We enjoy working together and there's truly no "right" way to write together. As you can tell, most writing teams figure out a system that works best for them. :-)


    Cheryl St. John is first? That's got to be a sign it's going to be a unique day!!

    This is such an amazing way to collaborate.

    I wonder how many of us have had a collaboration idea in the back of our heads. My sister and I want to but haven't yet.

  12. A very interesting post today. Thank you for sharing. Can you tell us how you came up with the pseudonym of Sparkle Abbey?

    I would love to be entered in your giveaway. Thank you for your generosity.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

  13. i love the titles of the books Kitty Kitty Bang Bang got me!

    love hearing about the collaboration. I had a series on my blog of authors who write together at one time.
    Just read an Aussie book where 4 authors wrote a character each.

  14. I love the part where you mention moral support. I think that would be so amazing.

    I'm so glad you shared your story with us and please add my name to the drawing.


    Jackie L.

  15. Cindy - Great question! When our publisher asked us to come up with a pseudonym, we were stumped. We came up with several ideas but none really seemed right. Finally, we came up with the idea of using our pets names. Sparkle is my cat, and Abbey is Anita's dog. We tried it out on Deb Dixon & Deborah Smith, our publishers at Bell Bridge Books, and they liked it. (They're both huge pet lovers, too.)

  16. Jenny - Wow, four authors together. That would be a challenge. And a lot of fun. :-)

  17. Jackie - The moral support is huge. We often say we don't know how others do this alone.

  18. Thanks for sharing your writing process. And your fun books. I've only read the first, but the others are certainly TBR!

    I've thought about collaborating off and on. Perhaps it will happen someday. You never know. :)

  19. Mary Lee and Anita, welcome!! We're so glad you joined us. What a great post! I had no idea about all the different ways to collaborate. I've always thought it would be fun to write a romance novel with a friend where one does the hero's pov and the other does the heroine's. And we'd write it back and forth, acting and reacting. :) I'd love to try that someday!

  20. Yeah to Sparkle Abbey. I've read the first two books and am ready for the third. Collaborators can work well together if they share a vision and have a goal to work toward.

  21. Good morning Sparkle Abbey, Welcome to Seekerville. What a great post on collaboration.

    Love your book covers and titles.

    How did you come up with your name?

  22. Thanks, lizzie! So great to see you here! You're right, you never know...

  23. Oh, I love your pen name even more after hearing where it came from! :) I think it's truly fun and memorable and looks great on a cover.

  24. Missy, that sounds like fun. We also had no idea there were so many different ways until we started interviewing other authors. Some were new at collaboration and others had been doing this for year. It was fun to hear the various methods.

  25. Hi Stephen (waving)- You're right, it's all about sharing a vision and having a common goal.

  26. What a great post. You two are proof that collaboration works.

  27. Sounds Like a great prize I'd love to win!
    I can see how it would be an advantage to collaborate and that way catch what one person would miss.
    Yes, it can also be tough if you don't agree about something.
    I'm glad it's working so well for the two of you!

    Morgan Mandel

  28. Wow, what a unique relationship you ladies have! I love how you developed your pen name, and how you share how different writing duos do it. :) This is so insightful!

  29. Thanks for the coffee, Helen...and more of it. Thanks.
    Terri...i guess you and i share a WORD for the year~FOCUS
    Knowing how you came up with the name for the author makes me want to read those books all the more. No, Anita and Mary Lee, i haven't read any of them, and i would LOVE to. Please put my name in the draw. i'll help spread the word! Thanks, Tina you rock!

  30. What I want to know is how you know these Nebraska gals. I thought ML was from a little further east.

  31. Imagine having Debra Dixon as your publisher. I am in awe. (Huge DD fiction fan).

    But this is a good opp to tell us about Belle Books. What is the process. You subbed a proposal? How exactly did the call happen?

  32. Good morning, Seekerville, Good morning Sparkle Abbey. Good morning, Tina! I've heard you two talk about your process before but this post really elaborates. I can totally see where you would have to share the same values, and definitely as one collaborator said put egos aside.

    So, I have a question. Has there ever been a time when one of you said this has to go in the book and the other said, I don't think so?

    In awe of how well you work together and the clever stories you produce!

  33. Oh my goodness! These titles are hilarious. What a cute idea.

    My sis and I are co-writing a book. It's a lot of work, but so fun.

    I'd love to win these stories. :)

  34. Awesome post! My husband and I collaborate constantly...but my name is the only one on the cover. It is a regular and constant team project and I honestly don't think I could do it without him.

  35. I think collaborating with a friend would be so much fun. Hard work, no doubt, but fun. I see that your first book was 202 pages. What age group are they targeted for? I think my niece would love them, but so would I. Please enter me!

  36. What cute titles and covers!

    I'm impressed w/two of you working together. And I agree trust would be the biggest thing. I'm assuming you'd really have to be able to step back and identify your own weaknesses and strengths then the same for your writing partners.

    Sometimes I wish I had someone to write with. My critque partners and I are similiar in what we like, but not close enough.

    Please put me in for the drawing.


    May the K9 Spy is hereby officially letting it be known that she would like to win a meeting with Sparkle and Abbey but books would do in a pinch. ("") ("")

    Mom and I have a special collaboration. Since I have no thumbs, I tell her the ruff idea of the story, then she takes it from there.

    I typically sit in her lap during the process. It helps keep her focused you know. BOL!

    Special sniffs and greetings!
    love from May

  38. would love to read these stories...thanks seekers for the chance

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  39. KC here!

    May forgot to mention something important. She and I have a collaboration but we do a Work for Hire arrangement with our illustrators, formatters, etc. This is a very important legal distinction. (Your comments on the pre-nup are spot on.)

    That being said, we work quite closely with the illustrator on the project and thus far, we're super pleased with how each book has turned out.

    Congratulations on all your success!

    And thanks Tina, for inviting the 4 to Seekerville. I think some treats on the buffet from Joshua's Pet Treat Bakery might be in order for Sparkle and Abbey, yes?

    May is complete agreement!

  40. OOOH, KC brought pet treats!!! Way to go.

  41. And K.C and May bring up a good point. Tell us about the illustrator process for your cover.

  42. Welcome to Seekerville, Mary Lee and Anita! Love your pseudonym. Thanks for sharing your process. Your stories sound and look fabulous.


  43. Welcome, Mary Lee & Anita, aka Sparkle Abbey! What a fascinating look at the collaboration process! I've often wondered what it would be like to write a book with another author and didn't know there were so many different ways of doing so.

    So, would you call yourselves plotters or pantsers? As a certified pantser, I'm wondering how that style of writing would work in a collaboration. Any thoughts?

  44. I'm completely in awe! I've read quite a few books by author duos lately and I'm just flummoxed by the whole process. The thing I find really interesting is the continuity in voice. Did both of you have similar writing styles before you started?

  45. Thanks, Jerri! Great to see you here.
    Morgan, you are absolutely right it can be tough if you don't agree about something. We like to say, if you're going to do this you have to check your ego at the door. The good thing is that we all have individual strengths and if you focus on that you realize sometimes talking it out makes for a stronger solution/story.

  46. This is very interesting to read about.
    I love the idea of working with someone on a book, but wow, Im trying to imagine thinking my way was the right way and backing off to let someone else's decision rule.
    I suppose I do that with my editors.
    I really love the idea of someone else doing the work. :) But then to put my name on it and not be able to really claim it.........I'm impressed ladies.

    I suspect you're both smart enough to compromise graciously.

  47. Maybe each of your writing your own book is the secret.
    Do you ever clash? Have you written all four books this way?

  48. Marilyn - It is all about cooperation. I think it helps us that we work the way we do and have individual books. So, you get the chance to be creative within your own story but you still have to check-in on continuity things like secondary characters, setting, etc. One day Anita called me and said, "I gave one of your characters an accent. Is that okay?" It was a secondary characters, a dog groomer. I said, "Sure." LOL

  49. Tina - Well, I've been a long-distance member of RAH/HWG in Omaha for years but the beginning of that story is Cheryl was the first awards luncheon speaker for our local RWA chapter. She gave a fabulous and inspiring speech and we've been friends ever since! But Cheryl also has Iowa roots...

  50. Tina, we are in awe of Deb Dixon and Deborah Smith too! Deborah Smith is our editor and we're just constantly amazed. If you'd like some info on how we ended up with the series idea check out our YouTube channel and click on Sparkle Abbey Is Chicken.

  51. Good Morning, Sparkle Abbey! Great to see you here in Seekerville.

    I think your unique collaboration (each of you writing every other book in an alternate POV with shared setting/supporting cast) is a perfect fit given the relationship you both share. You enjoy that degree of separation/isolation that is important to the writing process, yet you come together to brainstorm plot elements, story lines, series arc, etc., that are essential to developing a cohesive and connected series and characters.

    It's a unique balancing act, and clearly one that works for you!

    Congrats on your success, ladies!
    With much more to come!

    Oh. And don't forget to keep me informed of future retreats. I do love pumping bullet holes into plots. ;)

    Love you, ladies!

  52. Hi Sparbei:

    I really enjoyed your post but it brought up many questions. I’ve listed some questions below but feel free to answer only the ones you want to.

    (1) Who is Sparkle and who is Abbey?

    (2) Do you both speak with the same voice? For example, could I tell who wrote which book?

    (3) & (4) Do your pets ‘talk’ to each other and/or to the humans) and does the reader get to know what the pets are thinking via animal introspection?

    (5) Do you pantser the book out in advance and then outline the plot?

    (6) Do you leave much leeway for the author of the given book (odd or even) to pantser within each chapter?

    (7) What happens if the author of the given book wants to pantser away from the agreed ending? Who wins? Do you compromise by ‘cutting the baby in half’ or do you compromise by letting one person win this time and another person win the next time.

    (8) Bonus Question: Have you thought about a TV series: Sparkleton Abbey? It could star a roguish English Wolf Hound and an adorable red haired Irish Setter?


    P.S. I would love a chance to win a Kindle version of any of your books.

  53. HEY! Cheryl St. John was the first real live author I ever met. I belong to the Omaha RWA chapter, too.
    A CONNECTION!!!!!!!

  54. Cheryl St. John has a connection in my life too. When she came to Colorado to visit I realized there are brilliant, inspiring published authors out there who are NORMAL.

  55. Vince. Who is Sparbei? I have never seen a Vince typo. Ever. Is this a first??

  56. Kathy Bacus!!!! In Seekerville. Kathy is related to one of the Seekers. Little known trivia. But which one????

  57. Deborah Smith is your editor? See you gals and dogs are really blessed no matter how you look at it.

  58. Can anyone tell who is answering questions this morning? Is it Sparkle or is it Abbey??

  59. So ML has a cat named Sparkle and Anita has a dog named Abbey?

    I am slow. I finally realized that you said that and really looked closely at the picture.

  60. Okay, a question: who wrote which paragraphs in today's post? :-)

    Love the book titles and covers. It would seem I have another series to catch up on.

    Congrats on your successes -- may there be many more.

    Nancy C

  61. I have my own Cheryl St. John story. Cheryl judged my very first contest entry in the historical category of the MARA contest ages ago. I was a finalist and her critique and comments were extremely illuminating. I later met her at an RWA chapter meeting.

    And the rest is...history!


  62. Hey Donnell! Great question. We've both had ideas that the other didn't think would work for various reasons. The few times that's happened, we've also brainstormed ways to reshape the idea into something we can use if at all possible. Sometimes it works. That's the wonderful part of collaboration!

  63. Cheryl Hart - Thanks! We love coming up with titles.
    Hallee - God bless you for being able to work with your husband. That's a wonderful testimony to your marriage! You're lucky to have each other.

  64. Hi Donna! These are adult mysteries, but they also very clean. No on the page violence, no sex, very limited swearing. We like to say, if they've read Twilight, they can read our series. Thanks for asking!

  65. Have you ever heard of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon?

    We could play Six Degrees of Cheryl St.John.

  66. Mary, I'm working to preserve my reputation as NORMAL. LOL Tina said I was, so it must be true.

    (I think the key to knowing so many people is because I'm older than dirt.)

    You guys make me laugh.

    (Kevin Bacon's new series is freaky, btw.)

    Who shall I collaborate with to come up with a good pseudonym? My puppy's name is Annie.

  67. Kathy, I still remember reading that story for the contest. There are a couple over the years that stick out in my mind, where I was thinking, "This person is going to MAKE it."

    And you have. :-)

  68. LOL - love it, Mary.
    Six Degrees of Cheryl St. John!

  69. Oh, and Tina, I was born in the city where Anita and Marylee live and have been there many many many times to the wonderful IRN workshops, meetings, signings, etc.. It's a great chapter with a lot of energy and a feeling of camaraderie you don't find everywhere.

  70. Kathy - Great to see you here! You can shoot holes in our plots any day. :-)

  71. Vince -
    1. ML is Sparkle, Anita is Abbey

    2. We write with very similar voices. When we sent the proposal to Bell for the series, they said it was difficult to tell the difference between the two.

    3 &4. There isn't really anything in the books where the pets talk or have a POV. They are simply pets. However, Caro and Mel use how the people in the story interact with their furry friends to learn a lot about who they are.

    5. We really don't pantser much of anything. We plot, we come up with a loose outline, and then individually we layout scenes. That's not to say that we don't go where the story (or the character) takes us.

    6. Because we're each doing full books, we just have to be careful no to trip each other up.

    7. You nailed it. It's all about compromise but no dividing the baby. We agree before we start that a good story is more important than being right.

    8. Funny you should mention TV... We've had a couple of nibbles on movie rights. (I know, fun story, but long odds.) I keep saying the stories would make a great TV series!

  72. Nancy – Thanks! We love our covers too! Deb Dixon does an amazing job.

    Today’s post came from a workshop we gave at RWA last year. (The lovely Kathy Bacus was our moderator. She did a fabulous job!) The process for "writing" that workshop was us talking out our ideas, thoughts and research, and ML typing the document. Then for this post, ML took our notes and combined everything to read more like a blog, while I finished our fourth book, Yip/Tuck. Collaboration at its finest!

  73. Hi Tina:

    I guess my thinking was too far out of the box on that “Sparbei” attempt.

    Sparbei is a contraction of Sparkle and Abbey. I envisioned it to be like the Barbie Doll. It would be a doll of the author(s) that would come with a pet – a pet from one of the stories. It would be the first action figure to come with a pet. However, I had to make an editorial decision: do I keep the ‘e’ in Abbey where it is, next to the ‘b’ to keep an affinity for the word ‘Abbey’ or do I put the ‘i’ after the ‘e’ to make it more like the name “Barbie’. I chose to keep the affinity with ‘Abbey’ and I can see now that was a mistake.

    I will leave it up to you to decide if it was a typo.


    P.S. The 'Sparbie' dolls would be the talk of any writing conference in which they were shown.

  74. Tina said: Can anyone tell who is answering questions this morning? Is it Sparkle or is it Abbey??

    The correct answer is both!

  75. KC & May,
    How nice to meet you. Love May the K9 Spy! Thanks for bringing the pet treats.

    Sparkle thinks she's part of the creative process. She often stretches across any unattended laptop. She believes they are cat-warmers. :-)

  76. Tina,
    Our covers are done by the fabulously multi-talented Deb Dixon. They are almost never what we've imagined, but instead are WAY better. LOL

  77. Hey, Cheryl, there are worse things than normal. Ask Mary.

  78. Deb Dixon did those covers?? They are so FUN!!! I would have expected an ice skating nun.

  79. When we give workshops we often talk over each other. So bear with us if we do that here too...

    Funny story on the Sparkleton Abbey idea, Vince. We have a Google alert set-up to let us know when Sparkle Abbey is mentioned out there in the cyberspere. We keep getting all these alerts and they're invariably some article that's about something with "sparkle" in Downton Abbey. :-)

  80. This is the FIRST, FIRST, FIRST method of collaboration I've ever seen that even makes sense!!!!

    Sparkle and Abbey, I love that you're alternating books, that's ingenious and I can totally see how that would work... the different POV, the two heads plotting, the whole enchilada!

    THIS IS BRILLIANT And I rarely compliment people, I usually just steal their ideas and run, but I'm in awe here and grinning at your delightful post...

    Who wants to team up with me?????

    (I would bet NO ONE raises their hand, girls, because I don't play as nicely in the sandbox as I most likely should. Sigh....)

    But I love this idea.

    And congrats on your success with it!

  81. Collaboration - what a thought! Thanks for sharing your strategies for collaboration success. Also liked the tidbit about the other collaborators who have their computers linked. Good idea, too.

    And books with dogs...can't go wrong there! Congrats on the series!

  82. I thought about Ruthy's sandbox analogy and really for the first time it sort of hit me not Ruthy. The fact that collaboration sounds fun and doable, but really, that has got to be difficult.

    You each have visions for the books and even writing alternating books, the potential for skewing that vision is real.

    It takes a huge amount of humbleness or maybe it's big picture vision to be able to put aside ME for the better of WE.

  83. I wanna play 6 Degrees of Cheryl. We have a Friday Nite connection. Critique and whine...uh wine. :)

  84. Well, usually the idea of co-writing a book with someone else scares me away, but I actually like THIS way of doing things. I could see myself writing one book that was plotted with someone else, and letting someone else write the other. And I love how you each do different characters in the books. I would be terribly obvious (I'd think) if the books featured the same MC but switched authors.

    The sentence by sentence or chapter by chapter thing? No way. Would never work for me.

    Where's my crit partner Melissa? Are you here today? Did you see this? We should try it sometime!!!!! :-) (You know, when we both don't have deadlines go worry about or husbands to please or crazy kids running around the house. So maybe in half a century or so we can get around to it?)

  85. Wait. I have another question. I get how this would work for a mystery series where the MC(s) are constant throughout however many books. But how does this work for ROMANCE novels? You'd almost need to plot your series in books of four. They can all be family members or something, and then writer 1 takes books A and C, writer 2 takes books B and D. Is that how it would look for romance? Because you wouldn't be able to keep the same MCs for more than one novel right?

    Now I'm totally curious. Anyone else have thoughts about how this would work?

  86. Ruth, feel free to steal this one! You've hit on exactly why this method seems to work for us. It's kind of a best of both worlds.

    We have the support of another writer with the same vision and we have the autonomy of writing separate books.

    Balance act? You bet. But the benefits have been huge.

  87. Hi Sparkle Abbey:

    You wrote:

    “We keep getting all these alerts and they're invariably some article that's about something with "sparkle" in Downton Abbey.” :-)

    This is wonderful!!! $$$$$

    If I was your PR guy, I would immediately write an article, a funny article at that, which would explain how Sparkle Abbey is different from Downton Abbey. I would use the word ‘Downton Abbey’ as many times as possible to enrapture the search engines.

    Here’s the format:

    20 Ways “Sparkle Abbey” Differs from “Downton Abbey”:

    (1) “While Downton Abbey does x, y, and z, Sparkle Abbey does x, y, and z, plus pets.

    (2) “While Downton Abbey does full justice to the Queen’s English, Sparkle Abbey kills the Queen’s English in a shroud of mystery.

    (3) …your on your own…or your PR guy is. ☺

    Next post this article on many websites. I’ll post it on mine if you want, Philosophy of Romance, and when it comes up, you’ll be getting a selling presentation each time. Just make the post light-hearted and funny. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that just dropped out of the sky and into your laps!

    I think you two are a marketing person’s dream. ☻☻☻


  88. Naomi, great questions. Part of the reason the way we've done it works for us is that Caro has her own (internal) story and Mel has hers. These arc over the course of the series. Then there are the goals the character has (external) for each book - mostly to catch the bad guy but other goals as well.

    I think it would be fascinating to try this with a romance!

  89. May and KC checking back in.
    What a fun day, except we don't know Cheryl St. John and are feeling quite left out.
    May says she is ready to fix that though! Her ball is at the ready!

  90. Vince - Love, love, love the 20 Ways Sparkle Abbey Differs from Downton Abbey!!

    My brain (what I have left) is spinning!

    (3)Downton Abbey has the Dowager, Sparkle Abbey has the Dog Wagger...

  91. I am with Naomi, this totally intrigues me for writing a romance series.

  92. Hi Ruth:

    I’d team up with you! Just the entertainment value alone would be worth the effort. Besides I’m bigger than the sandbox. ☻

    But then, when you think about it, isn’t the whole idea of being a writer to be able to work alone and have full creative control: no directors, no actors, no investors, no band members, no scheduling problems with coworkers? My idol here is Liz Fielding who told me that the only human who sees her writing, besides herself, is her editor after she sends it in. (No CPs. No beta readers.) That’s nice work if you can get it!

    A collaboration where each writer writes a whole book seems more like Critique Partners on Steroids with Benefits and Responsibilities.

    It is a very interesting business model.


  93. Hi May and KC - Just popped over to your website. Love the concept!

    Can't believe you don't know Cheryl St. John. Allow us to make the introductions.

    Cheryl has a new, extremely adorable, dog named Annie.

  94. Hi Sparkle Abbey:

    This is first rate funny!

    “(3)Downton Abbey has the Dowager, Sparkle Abbey has the Dog Wagger...”

    Perhaps the Seekers and Seeker friends could post some more and you’d have your article before you go to bed tonight.

    KC: You have to be good for at least one of these. ☺

    BTW: If you come to Seekerville, you are probably going to leave with lots of marketing advice. ☻☻☻


  95. SPARKLE ABBEY ... first of all, let me say the name is PURE GENIOUS!! Even before I knew how you came up with it, I LOVED it and would have been drawn to your books on that very name alone. Of course, everybody in my family knows I'm a sucker for anything with "sparkle" ...

    WELCOME TO SEEKERVILLE, and what a truly incredible collaboration, you two -- I am SO impressed at how well you work together, splitting up the chores. Cannot imagine myself doing that with anyone, so I am all the more in awe.

    Your covers -- and your titles -- are flat-out adorable, so it's obvious you too are loaded with creativity and charm, which means your books must be too. Guess I'm going to have to find out for myself!!


  96. Sorry I got here so late...such a fun day in Seekerville.

    Waving to Sparkle Abbey. Love those covers! YAY, Belle Bridge. Deb Smith is a GRW gal and Deb Dixon has always been a friend of GRW. Aren't they both great!

    Wait! I'm a Deb. Maybe they'd like to pull me into their group. We could be the Three D's! I could be the Starbuck's Deb who gets the coffee each morning.

    Actually, loved reading about your collaboration. My hat's off to you both. Savvy and fun. What's not to love?

    Loving you in Seekerville today...

  97. Love the Sparkle Abbey/Downton Abbey comparison, Vince.

    Way to do us proud! :)

  98. You guys are such an inspiration! I'd love to do something with another LIH author, even if it's not official :)

    (Cheryl just felt a disturbance in the force.)

  99. Julie - Thanks SO much for the SEEKERVILLE welcome! What a great day we've had hanging out with you all.

  100. Hi Debby...waving back...

    Great to see you here!


  101. Oh, I could totally see this as a romance series.... Just like we do the continuities at Harlequin/Love Inspired, it could be a collaboration .... We should talk about this.


  102. Vince, you're a hoot!

    I don't critique with anyone. I go one-on-one with Melissa and we hammer out ideas and plot lines and nuances together, then I go forth and write, and then we edit as she sees fit.


    Sandra and I realized that years ago. At a certain point, your editors are your critiquers. Now others might disagree, and everyone's got their own style, but I know who signs my paycheck and she knows our readership better than anyone, so I know I can trust her wisdom and guidance to produce the best book I can for my Love Inspired readers. So that's huge to me.

    NOW... the idea of working to do a series is different. Other than collaborating on the arcs (remember how I talked about a series arc overhanging a book arc a few months ago????) I think each person would write her own story while incorporating those parts of the overall series arc. It's really no different from what we do now if we're working on a series, except farming out half the work.

    I'm liking this notion. :)

  103. I love the titles of these books. They look like fun ones to read. Thank you for the chance to win.

    griperang at embarqmail dot com

  104. Interesting article, thank you for doing it.


  105. Sparkle, Abbey, Anita and ML..I just wanted to be sure to thank ALL of you for being with us and for being such lovely guests.

    Someone even cleaned the litter box!!

    We wish you all continued success.

  106. Meow and woof and thanks and thanks! We so loved the company and the conversation. Thanks SO much for inviting us!

    And if any of you all come up with how Sparkle Abbey differs from Downton Abby ideaas...just send them our way. :-)

    (Special thanks to Vince for the idea.)

  107. Coming late to the game, ladies, but still wanted to let you know what a fascinating discussion this has been today, and I thought I knew you!

    I hope I'm not repeating this question from earlier, but how does your collaboration fit into your critique group? Do you run anything by them?

    Barbara Barrett

  108. Hi Sparkle Abbey:

    Here’s one more before midnight!

    (4) While Downton Abbey is actually in Highclere Castle, Sparkle Abbey actually is downtown.


  109. Thank you for sharing. I did wonder!!

  110. Thanks for the add-on, guys! Good article.

  111. There books sound awesome! I would love to be entered in the contest to win.

    MinDaf @

  112. I would love to win these books for the church library.
    Thanks for giving me the opportunity to do so.
    Janet E.