Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Booklist Review

From the Booklist Folks:

Stella Hardesty’s sideline business—delivering justice to men who abuse women—has earned her a reputation far beyond her home in rural Prosper, Missouri. By day she’s the sole operator of Hardesty Sewing Machine Sales & Repair, started with her wife-beater husband, Ollie, before he died (after his head connected with the wrench in Stella’s hand.) When Roy Dean Shaw gets a very pointed warning from handgun-toting Stella to stay away from Chrissy, the wife he beats, Stella’s job seems to be done—until someone takes off with Chrissy’s 18-month-old son. Stella’s concern for the missing child is great enough to involve Sheriff Goat Jones in the case but not before launching her own clandestine and well-armed search, along with a newly fierce Chrissy. Ass-whuppin’ 50-year-old Stella is nothing if not inventive, from using high-quality sexual restraints on abusers to going toe to toe with some very bad Mafia types; she’s ably backed up by Goat, a divorcee who sends Stella sexual vibes and winks at her vigilantism. Littlefield puts a new spin on middle-age sleuths in this rollicking, rip-roaring debut.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Thanks, Big Guy

Hang on to your hats, all you tough padres, 'cause I'm gonna get sloppy now.

A little over a year and a half ago I went to Bouchercon, the big mystery conference, in Anchorage.

I knew a couple of people, but they were busy with all of their published-person stuff - I'd see them standing in groups talking and laughing with the other Published, and while they were unfailingly kind, I was so intimidated I could barely put words together and so fraught with longing that I felt like a violin's E string wound so tight on the peg it was ready to snap.

I had written so much, for so long, and I just couldn't get a break. I was starting to wonder - not in my conscious mind, because my conscious mind is a badass and never gives up - deep down in the craggy dark places if I would ever sell a book. I was not at my best, and I have a few mortifying memories to prove it - I was trying too hard, overcompensating, and I didn't know when to quit. (That's that relentless mind of mine. Great asset, great liability.)

Because I'm me, I didn't go back to my room and mope like a sensible person. I forced myself to keep trying. Earlier in the day I had met a beautiful, gracious woman in line for something or other - and for no good reason at all that I could figure out, she gave me her cell number and suggested I call her if I was looking for something to do that evening because she'd be out with a group of friends and she was sure they'd love to have me along.

I was pretty sure she was just being polite, but I called her anyway. She named a bar across the street. I went. Her friends were nice. They sang, they danced, we all had a few drinks. At the end of the evening she said she'd see me soon, and even though I wasn't at all sure that would happen, I was deeply grateful to her for including me in the evening. Because of her kindness, I calmed down a little, got up the next day, and kept going.

A lot's happened since then. Today my issue of Romantic Times came in the mail. I opened it up to the mystery section and found my review for my first book - and right across from it, on the facing page, her review, for her fourth. I immediately called her up and left her a half-rambling, half-choked-up message. Because, see, we're still friends. In fact, we still hang out. Since October 2007 we've shared about a thousand laughs and a few tears. There was an incident with a knife...another with a toy poodle and mayonnaise...well, I digress.

It pains my cynical heart to admit it, but once in a while life/The Big Guy gives you a gift for no good reason at all. And that night the gift was J.

Review from Deadly Pleasures...

Deadly Pleasuress magazine has this to say:

Stella Hardesty may best be described as a pistol, or pistol packin' mama. Her day job is owner of a sewing shop in Missouri. This country gal has another job, working as what may best be described as a behavioral modification consultant. Stella was a battered wife, who finally snapped. Luckily when she was brought to trial for the murder of her husband, she had many friends and neighbors come to court on her behalf. She was acquitted, and then began helping other women in her former situation.

Using methods that would likely get her some jail time, she is able to convince most men that it is in their best interests to leave the woman they've been abusing alone. Usually it just takes one session, but occasionally there is a recidivist.

Chrissy Shaw's no good husband Roy Dean is caught manhandling a woman at a local racetrack. Stella has another little talk with him, and though she's not convinced he really got the message, she's got to give him time to think things over. Sadly, Chrissy comes by and announces Roy Dean has disappeared, which is no great loss. However, he took Chrissy's adorable son, Tucker. Roy Dean isn't Tucker's dad, and doesn't give a fig about him, so Chrissy fears for her son.

Stella noses around, and finds there are some evil people in their community. Some are homegrown, and some are mobsters from the big city. Stella has her hands full, and risks her life to help Chrissy. Chrissy steps up and helps Stella in a big way. They find Tucker, and suffer major injuries in his recovery.

This was a very inspiring novel. Stella and Chrissy show what they are made of, and prove that a woman is nothing to be taken for granted. Resourceful and brave, you can almost imagine these women as pioneers, fighting off attackers, and doing what has to be done.

I'm anxiously waiting the sequel.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Four Stars From Romantic Times!

Romantic Times review for A BAD DAY FOR SORRY:

(4 stars)
Expect the unexpected with Stella Hardesty, who’s quite the intriguing character. She’s 5-foot-6, overweight and out of shape. Since her 50th birthday has come and gone, menopause has kicked in as well, which doesn’t help matters any. From Stella’s opening remark, “Whuppin’ ass wasn’t so hard. What was hard was making sure it stay whupped,” the reader can’t help but be drawn into her world and wonder where it will all lead.

Stella, who runs a sewing shop in Missouri, also helps battered women get rid of their abusive significant others. And lately it’s been taking up a significant amount of her free time. When a young woman asks for help, Stella thinks her case will be pretty straightforward. But when the woman’s husband disappears with her 2-year-old son, Stella is in a dogfight, trying not only to save the little boy’s life but her own too.

Friday, June 19, 2009

No Guts - No Glory, Not Even a Little

Lately I've been thinking about bravery.

There's all kinds. There's the kind that gets you in the chair every day, even though the Writing Fairies do not promise sparkly outcomes for anyone and are, in fact, quite stinting with their favors.

There's the kind that you need to make tough decisions and stick with them, even though it would be far harder to take the easy path.

And then there's the reckless, hell-for-leather kind that shares a very blurry thin line with sheer idiocy.

It's tempting to think the latter is testosterone-fueled. One of the members of our household scaled Yosemite's Half Dome the other day, a feat in itself, but that wasn't good enough - he had to then sit down on the Diving Board, an outcropping of rock that juts out over the zillion-foot drop to the valley floor.

I was all set to screech my fury and displeasure when I was shown the photographic evidence of that moment, when I had a not entirely comfortable revelation...

...pushing oneself to the ill-advised edge is something he just might - might - have inherited from a parent.

- - - - -

Life: So, sport, how about a nice nine-to-five job with benefits, now that you have college to pay for and people depending on you?

You: Hell no, I'm going to give this writing thing a shot.

Life: Ha. You know that the odds are catastrophic. You're going to end up -

You: I'll end up where I end up, but at least I will have driven myself there, thanks very much...

And hey, P, C, and S? You guys have the chops, I swear it. Keep being brave.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Oh, and a review from Kirkus!

From Kirkus Reviews:

Renegade justice takes a turn when a domestic-violence case becomes a kidnapping.

Stella Hardesty is no lady. She owns a small sewing shop in the depths of Missouri, but she’s also got a side job delivering her own special brand of justice to dealers of domestic violence. It’s her way of giving back after a life with Ollie, her own death-do-us-part abuser. Having disposed of him years ago, she’s managed to keep this little domestic secret and her side job from the watchful eyes of Sheriff Goat Jones. Too bad, too, because she wouldn’t mind spending a little more time in the gaze of those eyes. Stella’s got a routine down pat: five days a week peddling sewing goods to old ladies, the other two for extracurriculars. When she spots poor Chrissy Shaw, who suffers regularly at the hands of her loser husband Roy Dean, Stella makes a quick visit to Roy Dean and thinks she’s taken care of the situation. But then Chrissy’s two-year-old son Tucker disappears, with Roy Dean the obvious suspect. Preliminary investigations suggest that the story is far more complex than Stella ever imagined. In addition, Chrissy’s quite a bit tougher than Stella figured. Will the two be able to team up and figure out where Tucker’s stashed while staying under Goat’s radar?

First-timer Littlefield creates characters with just the right quirks who charm even in the face of unrealistic plot turns.

PW Review....and BEARS

Just received a nice review from Publishers Weekly:

A Bad Day for Sorry Sophie Littlefield. Minotaur, $24.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-312-55920-5
Littlefield's amusing, sassy debut introduces Stella Hardesty, a widow and survivor of domestic violence, who owns a sewing shop in a sleepy Missouri town. On the side, Stella solves problems and metes out justice on behalf of battered women, like Chrissy Shaw, whose abusive bully of an ex-husband, Roy Dean Shaw, Stella keeps tabs on. After Roy Dean absconds with Chrissy's baby, Stella learns he's involved with local mobsters in a stolen auto parts ring. Chrissy sheds her victimhood to team up with Stella and do battle. After girding up their weaponry, the unlikely crime-fighting duo trick their way into the home of Roy Dean's mob boss, who they suspect has Chrissy's son. Stella discovers that no amount of preparation and righteous anger can prevail over pure evil, at least not without loads of trouble. Spunky, unapologetically middle-aged and a tad cantankerous, Stella barges bravely and often unwisely into danger. (Aug.)

I'm on my annual family trip to Yosemite National Park. This morning the rest of the family got up at 5am to hike Half Dome, an adventure that didn't tempt me as much as sleeping in (it's 19 miles round trip - half straight up and half straight down - I mean it's unbelievably beautiful and all but for heaven's sakes...).

And I probably would have enjoyed a nice long nap except that a little while after the family set out in the early-morning dark, a bear wandered into my cabin. A huge old giant black bear....luckily he evidently didn't find me very appealing because he turned around after a few moments and lumbered back out.

So, friends, I narrowly avoided being a bear snack :)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

'Cause I'm So Darn Crafty

I'm not really a detail person, and I'm sure I've made a ton of errors in every story and book I've written. But I'll guarantee you I'll never make a mistake on the sewing stuff. Breathe easy, potential readers - it's all been fact-checked right here in the Littlefield Home Test Kitchens.

Meanwhile, here's the dress I made for my daughter's eighth grade graduation.

Monday, June 8, 2009

ABDFS reviewed at Armchair Interviews

Many, many thanks to Andrea Sisco for her review of my book on her site, Armchair Interviews. This was my first published review!

A Bad Day for Sorry by Sophie Littlefield begins with a four-paragraph prologue. If you don’t continue reading after absorbing those few words, there is nothing that will compel you to read a good book! And the prologue is just the beginning of a fast-paced knockout journey into Stella Hardesty’s world. It’s at times so funny you’ll laugh out loud. But there are other times when you’ll suck in your breath at the turn toward darkness. Sophie Littlefield’s heroine, Stella Hardesty, is a feisty, strong woman with a take-no-hostages attitude. She’s ballsey, to put it bluntly, and that’s a good thing.

Stella Hardesty has known sadness, disappointment, humiliation, fear and a whole lot of hurt throughout the years. But the reason for all those problems is gone and it’s just as well. The pain of her life took a lot out of her, but now she has a reason to help others. Stella owns a little sewing shop, but it’s her sideline that is her passion. She’s the guardian of battered women. Her methods are a bit different and she’s not above giving out a little pain herself (just to get someone’s attention of course). She’s getting really good at her job and her reputation is growing. There aren’t too many men who want to tangle with her.

But when Chrissy Shaw asks for her help, the simple case of warning off an abusive husband turns ugly when her young son disappears. Stella begins to unravel clues into the child’s disappearance that places her own safety in jeopardy. And if that’s not bad enough, she’s got a little itch for the sheriff and that’s a no-no. If she gets too close to the law, there might be questions about the demise of her own husband. She doesn’t want that to happen.

Stella Hardesty is the anti-heroine that everyone will love and root for. She tackles, fearlessly, the evil that walks among us and gives abused women a new lease on life. I hope this is just the beginning of a new series because I want more of the fifty-year-old Stella. She’s my kind of’ woman.

Armchair Interviews says: A Bad Day for Sorry is a must read.

"Desperation Lit" - for the Kids!

This article from the Wall Street Journal expresses what I have been trying and failing to put into words lately when talking about young adult fiction - and, it must be said, in defense of the darker themes I wove through my own debut YA.

"Teenagers have historically shown a certain appetite for calamity," Katie Roiphe writes. "They like a little madness, sadism and disease in the books they curl up with at night." She cites WINTERGIRLS and HUNGER GAMES and 13 REASONS WHY among others, all of which I've recently read, and all of which *appear* to beg the question of whether this is really appropriate fare for young audiences (or, if you're a parent of adolescents, the even more urgent question of whether you'd want your own kid reading it).

Roiphe's article is wonderful (I particularly like the way she roots for the "happyish" endings in what she refers to as "disaster fiction"), and she makes the point that in some ways, these dark-themed books are actually more redemptive than the upbeat mall/clique alternatives, since the allow kids to go straight to the dramatic core where - it must be said - many of them live their internal lives anyway.

In case you've forgotten your own teen years, let me remind you that they were fraught. Slights, real or imagined, took on crushing weight; family squabbles felt like tectonic upheavals; love was sublime and utterly absent of irony.

So far, I've written YA with a female reader squarely in mind (this is not true of all my other fiction). An adolescent girl has a particular set of fears - a frightening participatory mythology, even - which is unique and inescapable, and comprised largely of nascent sexuality and its implications in our society. I don't believe in ignoring it or exploiting it.

But that's just one dark corner of many that teens are anxious to explore, as Roiphe reveals.

Good News & Good Advice

We're very blessed that our local paper still devotes page space to book reviews. Kudos to them and all the other rags still fighting the good fight.

This week one of the reviewers cheered me immensely. "It's no secret that publishers routinely give out huge advances to authors," he wrote. Huzzah! Sign me up!

He goes on to offer this terse advice for publishers: "Wouldn't it make sense to publicize those books that are good?"

June Column

From the June issue of the San Francisco Romance Writers of America chapter newsletter, Heart of the Bay.
From The President

At a recent luncheon, I had a conversation with a writer who works in a subgenre that is flourishing in online publishing, but she worried that she might not be accepted by a mainstream romance writing group. It is, in fact, a fairly risqué subgenre.

I assured this writer that she’d find community and welcome at SFRWA, but I have to admit I had my (virtual) fingers crossed, hoping I wasn’t making a promise I couldn’t keep. Um, did I mention that the subject matter is a bit extra-extra-spicy?

I mulled it over on the drive home, and by the time I pulled into my driveway I had decided there was nothing to worry about. One of the things I love about our chapter is our climate of respect. It never fails to impress me to see writers at different ends of various spectra finding conversational common ground, whether it’s writing-related or not.

Why do you suppose that is? Maybe all of our mamas raised us right. Maybe we all realize that we can learn even from those outside our area of expertise. Maybe we’re just curious about what everyone else is up to over in their corner of the pasture.

Or maybe, as I suspect, we are a bunch of ladies who have realized that Nice Matters.

In our chapter, we have talked about the importance of welcoming newcomers. We make guests and new writers feel at home at our meetings. There’s no such thing as a “published-only” table around the SF-RWA ranch. Besides, the unfamiliar person who sits down next to you might just end up being your next critique partner. She may know about a new market, an agent looking for submissions, or even a great place to get a cupcake or an oil change. You’ll never know until you say hello.

I have an admission to make. I’m actually shy. No one ever believes me, but I’m the person who’s constantly worried that I’ll say or do the wrong thing, and I’d be far more comfortable sitting in a corner by myself than in a party full of new faces.

Too often, I think, shyness is mistaken for aloofness or unfriendliness. You may believe someone has slighted you when, in fact, they may have been overcome by a bout of tongue-tied uncertainty. So on behalf of the timorous, I encourage everyone to take a chance on an unfamiliar face, even if they aren’t exactly putting out warm and fuzzy vibes. If it doesn’t go swimmingly, try again next time. You’re not allowed to write someone off until you’ve engaged them in conversation several times. In fact, even then you might consider giving them the benefit of the doubt.

What’s the worst that can happen? It’s not like people are going to give you a hard time about it:

Editor: We came really close with that last submission, but word on the street is that author is just incorrigibly friendly, and the committee balked.

Agent: I was afraid of that. Frankly, it’s becoming a real problem. I’m thinking of cutting her loose, actually. But hey, I’ve got another client who’s a real b----. Heck, she’s offended half our office. You’ll love her…

There’s a reason that industry professionals call RWA the best place for new writers. Let’s keep that door open.

Monday, June 1, 2009


Did I mention I am part of a new group blog? The best part is that all of these women are my friends, and they've made the process more fun than it ought to be.

Yesterday we had a work day here. The energy was great. We made pots and pots of coffee. People brought exquisite pastries from the city, organic cherries...

Adrienne brought cheetos. Man, I love you, Adrienne.

<-- me and Adrienne

Rachael and Julie actually finished books while they were here. There's some powerful juju there...probably better than drinking the blood of a bear or something, being around those two when they typed THE END.

I finally got moving again on the abandoned book. (Three words...marxist male prostitutes.)

Anyway, if you want to see what my tribe looks like: