Friday, October 10, 2014

ND Dispatch #4: Williston snapshots

I thought it might be fun to share a few photographs of places which ended up appearing in the novel.

 You'll notice that Wal-Mart figures prominently: truly, it felt like the very heart of the town. I don't mean that in a bad way, either--though many of my loved ones are not fans of Wal-Mart, for me it evokes pleasant childhood memories. In Missouri, it was a place I could bike to, with air conditioning, where I could buy cheap treasures with my allowance....whereas in Williston it really has the feel of the general store/outfitter.

my rental car - after I scraped it off. It was dirty, had a cracked windshield, and smelled like cigarettes. Also - no snow tires!!

this is the start of the snow storm that ended up closing the highway and airport during my visit


WalMart, at midday when there were fewer shoppers

men sleep in their trucks in the lot due to the housing shortage



the Wal-Mart liquor store, by local law housed separately. This was the only part of Wal-Mart that I found depressing.

Western dress is standard

At WalMart, you can buy your groceries...



....get your hair cut....
....buy all your cold-weather gear...



...get your nails done...

...and buy jeans for the whole family. No Lucky or Hudson here!


the Williston library...shoveling done by librarians!






Tuesday, October 7, 2014

ND Dispatch #3: This Ain't the Chron, Sister

*** third in a series of posts from while writing THE MISSING PLACE ***

Thursday, January 10, 2013

So I picked up a copy of the Bismarck Tribune this morning, having read the Williston paper yesterday. I gave it a good peruse over my diner breakfast.  It didn't take me long at all to conclude that this is a very different paper than we read in the Bay Area. I mean, I get that any newspaper at all is an anachronism at this point, that I hold history in my hands - crumbling, soon, to forgotten dust - but it was still a bit jarring.

Here are just a few things I don't think you'd find in the SF Chronicle:

1. The headline "U.S. Tax Code Longer Than Bible"

2. A sidebar on "Winter Survival Kit Basics" that includes this item:
"Food, such as hard candy, jelly beans, raisins, nuts, candy bars, dehydrated fruit and jerky." Emphasis mine, of course. But jaysus, I can only imagine walking into the Oakland Whole Foods with this list in hand...

3. A *full-page* ad congratulating Miss North Dakota. Way to go, Rosie, and it's sort of sweet that you've got the local folks so solidly behind you.



4. Three of the six obituaries with editorial content mention horses.

5. Classified ads. With pictures. Like, before craigslist, remember? You can buy an antique tackle box, wedding dresses, tires, 1950s license plates...

(People, I'm writing this in the Williston Public Library and there is a guy at the next table with *chaw*. I swear it. His chewing noises are very rhythmic, so there's that; I'll just pretend it's waves crashing on a beach or something. But....wow.)

Also, here's a snap of a Williston librarian performing a service that I don't think are required of her Oakland colleagues.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

ND Dispatch #2: THE MISSING PLACE soundtrack

*** second in a series of posts from while writing THE MISSING PLACE ***

I cheated a little when creating my writing soundtrack for the MISSING PLACE. Usually, I choose music based not on my own taste but on that of the characters. For instance, when I was writing BANISHED, my first young adult novel, I listened to a lot of Seether and Staind.

Not so this time. I guess I gave myself permission to take some liberties because this was my most challenging book yet, so I paved the way by choosing a theme song by my favorite artist, Chris Knight, called "North Dakota". Check it out here:




As it happens, I love Shay's theme song too: "One of Us" by Joan Osborne. It's a weird coincidence that Shay, in my mind, looks almost exactly like Joan.

Colleen was a little tougher. I love Colleen, but I don't love her taste, probably because she's cobbled partly from parts of myself that I've left behind. So I imagine her to listen to uptight, bland music, the sort of thing they might play at Sur La Table, for instance, if they play music there...maybe upbeat tunes (with a thread of desperation that I'm probably imagining) from the likes of Phil Collins and John Mayer.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

MISSING PLACE in the magazines

The only thing better than seeing your book reviewed in a magazine while you're standing in line at the grocery store is getting an issue of one of your favorite magazines in the mail--one you've subscribed to for over a decade--and finding it there.

I'll leave it to you to guess which was which, but THE MISSING PLACE received nice notice from both Better Homes & Gardens and Fitness magazines this month.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

ND Dispatch #1: Inside a man camp

*** first in a series of posts from while writing THE MISSING PLACE ***

I'd love to share a little of what I learned while visiting Williston, North Dakota to learn about the oil boom and the "man camps" in which the rig workers live. I'll let my pictures do the talking for the most part. A few observations:
  1. North Dakota is really, really cold in winter, at least as experienced by a NorCal resident.
  2. People are nice. Even when there's no reason to be.
  3. There are no set quiet hours when shifts span the entire 24-hour day: someone is always trying to get some sleep, and someone else is getting up for work, or trying to relax at the end of their shift.
  4. The food is *awesome*. I'm sorry I didn't think to get pictures of the kitchen and dining area, but their chef is talented and much appreciated.
All of these photos were taken at the Black Gold Williston Lodge, whose proprietors were kind enough to let me stay. It is a clean, warm, pleasant place. Check out their Facebook page for a great aerial view. 



Black Gold Lodge--parking lot was just plowed after snow

Deck in entry area

View of dorm wing
Coffee, tea, cocoa are hot and ready around the clock

Bible study, run by volunteers

hallway of a dorm wing



these are made from giant shipping containers. you can see the "seam" in this one

the rec room: games, big TV, comfy couches








there's an exercise room...but who'd have energy after a 12 hour shift?

view from my room - wind chill was minus-15 degrees

Each room has a locker and hooks for your things...

a desk and lamp...

and double bed, with TV bolted to wall overhead


Friday, September 19, 2014

Review Love from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus & Suspense

My release day is less than a month away, and the reviews are beginning to come in.  So pleased to report the nice things being said:

Publisher's Weekly
Two women from opposite ends of the country, and the socioeconomic spectrum, join forces in a desperate race to discover what happened to their missing oil rig worker sons in this moving mystery from Edgar-finalist Littlefield. Combining their complementary skills—Shay’s doggedness, Colleen’s diplomacy—the mothers start to make some headway, but that may not be enough to outmaneuver the forces trying to stymie them (or to overcome their simmering mutual distrust). Littlefield maximizes the emotional impact of her character-driven cautionary tale. 

Kirkus
A dark tale of two mothers seeking their sons, dead or alive. As twist leads to turn, they discover how poverty, greed and jealousy can add up to tragedy. Edgar Award nominee Littlefield deftly contrasts Shay's and Colleen's experiences and prejudices. Colleen's...conflicts with Shay neatly calibrate her troubles with Paul. It's a good yarn, weaving together corporate and personal malfeasance. A satisfying, icy thriller.

Suspense Magazine
Littlefield leads us through the snow and slush chasing red herrings, from the oil rigs to the local bars. It doesn’t really leave us with a traditional happy ending, but then life rarely does. This is a story of a mother’s determined yearning for the truth no matter what and in that, we are dragged to the emotional ending as harried, exhausted, as those searching. I read this on one sitting, unable to leave the fray with the boys’ lives at stake.

And a very delightful surprise - today when I got home, there were two packages waiting outside my apartment door, from two special people - Abby Zidle, my editor at Simon& Schuster, and Laura Palmer, my UK publisher.  I had a feeling I knew what was inside: the finished copies of my book. I'm well beyond pleased with how they've turned out!


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Cover Reveal: UK

I'm thrilled to share - the UK version of the MISSING PLACE - titled THE MOON POOL - will be released on October 9th, a few days before the US version. The cover is A-MA-zing - my publisher, Laura Palmer at Head of Zeus, says it will be matte black with the image all shiny. Cover bling!!  (every author's dream :)