Of Family and Holidays and Inspiration — Welcome Sparkle Abbey!

First off, we are thrilled to be here at Wicked Cozy Authors today. Thanks so much to Sherry Harris for inviting us.

This time of year there are so many online photos of picture perfect family get-togethers. You’ve seen them, right? The matching china, the colorful centerpiece, the happily chatting family and friends gathered around the sumptuous feast. Is that what it’s like at your house?

We have to confess that’s not quite what it’s like for us. And frankly, though sometimes we long for that magazine-cover-worthy gathering, most of the time we’re thrilled to be a part of the not-always-perfect celebrations.

You see as mystery writers, our novels are ultimately about motives and what makes people tick. So those festive parties or holiday family dinners are the perfect opportunity to observe. Like most writers, we’re fascinated with people and what makes them do the things they do. Some of the best drama can be found during a family holiday gathering.

Like who thought it was a good idea to bring six extra people to Thanksgiving? And is that guy with your brother’s daughter a boyfriend or just a friend? And does your uncle really think no one sees him packing up all that food to take home for later?

The truth is we always have way more food than we need, so the six extras really didn’t matter. and no one cared that Uncle Martin was packaging food for later. We just would have liked for him to wait until after we’d eaten. And, of course, your extremely blunt sister will find a way to ask niece Maggie about the boyfriend status. (Names have been changed to protect the guilty.)

Family dynamics play a big part in our stories. Our two amateur sleuths, Caro and Mel, are cousins and there’s a feud over a family heirloom of sorts. As a result, they’re not speaking to each other. It’s partly a misunderstanding and partly just good old-fashioned stubbornness. In Caro and Mel’s case, their feud causes them to make some occasional bad decisions and things get a bit complicated. Dare we say, a bit of family drama?

Now because we write mysteries, there are also some others who make bad choices with much more serious consequences. And ultimately to unravel the whodunit, Caro and Mel have to figure out what makes the potential suspects tick. What makes people do the things they do.

Back to those holiday dinners. No murders in our respective families. And everyone is on speaking terms with each other, for now anyway. It’s true, our china doesn’t always match, and sometimes the centerpieces are homemade (and look it), but at the end of the day, the food is always tasty, the conversations energetic, and there’s plenty of love to go around. And if there’s drama? Well, friends and family beware. You just might end up in our next book!

What about your family get-togethers?  Are they more the picture perfect kind of gatherings? Or are yours more like ours, imperfectly perfect in their own way?

Readers: We’d love to hear your stories. What was your best or most disastrous family gathering?

Sparkle Abbey is actually two people, Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter, who write the national best-selling Pampered Pets cozy mystery series set in Laguna Beach. Their series features former Texas beauty queen cousins, Caro, a pet therapist and, Melinda, a pet boutique owner. The most recent installment (book nine) is Barking with the Stars and The Dogfather (book ten) is in the works.

They love to hear from readers and would love to connect with you via their website at: sparkleabbey.com or you can also find them on: Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.


18 Thoughts

  1. So hysterical. I can see Uncle Martin packing away and someone showing up with the extra six. That kind of thing happened often at my house.
    I did civilian volunteer work with a State police agency so on holidays, I ran an open house and anyone on duty was welcome to stop by for a hot meal. The first year I did this, one of my neighbors called to ask what was wrong because my house was surrounded by police cars!

  2. Great word drawing of the dinner, ladies, and welcome to the blog! And congratulations on the long-running series. I love Thanksgiving with a passion, and almost never have disasters. A friend did bring a sort of prima donna exchange student one year who claimed to have never eaten a vegetable – but that was just annoying, not disastrous. This year we had a baby present for the first time in twenty-nine years! It was a delight.

    1. It’s always exciting as the dynamics change over the years. We’ve gone from no little ones, to having little ones again at our gatherings. So much fun!

  3. My mom has that Christmas china pictured above. Too funny. Our most disasterous Christmas was a few years ago. We went to a neighbors for Christmas brunch and apparently her eggnog was pretty potent. Well, everyone (except me) got so schnockered that Christmas dinner was forgotten. I think we either had Chinese or pizza, not sure which. That was our drunken Christmas, which we still talk about.

    1. What a coincidence! It’s beautiful china. We find that either things go well and we have a great time…or things go not-so-well and we still have a great time. Plus we have great stories! 🙂

  4. We lean more on the “imperfectly perfect” side. We have matching plates and we bring out the silver. But something always happens. One year, the turkey just would not cook. We happily ate potatoes, stuffing, and pie until the bird was done. 🙂

  5. We are so perfectly imperfect that I wouldn’t know what a perfect holiday dinner was. Whether it is in the cooking, the guest mix, or whatever……there is humor. Loved your descriptions and how you tied in the way mystery writers view the “questions” and “answers.” — especially the aunt who will ask the question on everyone’s mind.

    1. One of the things we’ve found is that the things we used to fret over really aren’t important in whether it’s a great celebration. In the end, it all works out!

  6. We’ve never had a disaster, but I think it is because the whole family is very open to whatever. Over the years, the “family” dinner table has included girlfriends and boyfriends of both sexes, step-children of families not present, parents with boyfriends/girlfriends, ex’s and their current partners whether married or not. You get the idea. Everyone is accepted. And everyone gets along. I don’t have any family left except my daughter and husband, but my in-laws are the greatest!

    Happy Chanukah to those who celebrate.

  7. I would say my family falls somewhere in the middle. It’s not picture perfect, but most years there are no issues. When there are issues, it falls into accidents that we laugh about years later. Like the time the turkey roaster stopped working. Or the year we had to go to the grocery store 4 times because of things we forgot to buy. Still, most years things go off without a hitch, and we enjoy spending time together.

  8. One of my favorite Thanksgivings was when we were stationed at Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, California. We had people from all over the world that year. The day ended with us all sitting around a fire pit. Someone requested that we sing an American song. Thirty people got up and did the Hokey-Pokey!

  9. Welcome to the Wickeds, Mary and Anita! I’m laughing about Kristen’s comment above. My drunken Christmas was 40 years ago when Bill’s family was like six hours late for Christmas brunch and while we were waiting his brother and I got into the eggnog. All I can say is–never again!

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