Thursday, July 30, 2009

Reading For No Good Reason

I read lots and lots of books, and lately the pile teeters practically out of control. There are so many books I come across in the course of my own writing - mostly mysteries, women's fiction, and young adult novels - that I "need" to read for a variety of reasons: to keep up to date in my genre, to understand reader tastes, to familiarize myself with an author before a panel or workshop where we'll be working together, and so on.

This is a delightful problem to have. Reading for "work" beats any other job I've held by a long shot.

Still, the crowding of my reading plate leaves little room for one of my all-time favorite pleasures - the book you read for no good reason at all.

Tonight I went to see Mary Roach, an old favorite, and as well as Mara Altman, a really entertaining and fun author who wrote THANKS FOR COMING.  These two buoyed my spirits immensely (as did the friends I went with, three writers plus my neighbor Jan).

Mary and Mara have written singular books.  Their subtitles: "The curious coupling of science and sex" and "One young woman's quest for an orgasm." There was a fair amount of audience giggling. I just might have to move them up the reading pile.

Oh, and I picked up UNWIND by Neal Shusterman on Martha's recommendation.  These YA authors are pushing every envelope they can, and I think I like it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My Big Day

I had a great birthday.

There was cake...

My friends were there...

And my book comes out in six days.  Can't much beat that with a stick!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Cuisine Update

We're heading into late summer, so lots of folks are harvesting their zucchini and home-grown tomatoes and herbs and what not and making all kinds of macrobiotic gazpacho and such shit, but here at the Littlefield house we're a little too preoccupied for much more than zippy trips to the strip mall joints.
We did manage two food adventures this week, however.  First, one of my offspring managed to create an octuple-stuffed Oreo. This is delicate work, as anyone who's attempted to remove the chocolate wafer from a conjoined cookie can tell you. Then she fed it to the other one, who will basically eat anything these days.
Then, on the annual trip to the boardwalk, we tried something that had never even occurred to me. I saw a pair of zestfully-partying type gals of a certain age (looked like they'd been up for fifty hours and enjoyed every one of them immoderately) just enjoying the heck out of this....thing, so I had to ask them what it was.  Promptly ordered our own and shared.
Fried. Cheez. On. A. Stick.
This ain't no dainty mozzarella slice, friends. It's a quarter pound of Velveeta (actually what I think it is, is government cheese that "fell" off a truck somewhere) dipped in cornmeal batter (what they use for the corn dogs) and then lovingly sent for a bubbling-oil bath until it's all melty and such.
We were both disgusted and thrilled. It was gone in moments. Two of us have metabolisms that can support such a fall from grace. The other two are already regretful.

Friday, July 24, 2009

That's My Dad!

Lately my Dad has been sending me nice emails congratulating me on my book news. I thought I'd return the favor - proud of you, Dad!

I feel a little like I'm bringing my Dad in for Career day. When I was little, what I knew about my dad's job is that he wrote and read, all day, every day. The details of his various teaching positions are far less important to me than the image of Dad sitting in his favorite chair, favorite reading light nearby, reading in the evenings. And guess what - now I spend my days exactly the same way, except for the being-attached-to-a-keyboard part.  So I'm not a law professor like my dad - like i said, the details aren't important. What's important is we're both word people, a gift he passed on not just to me but to my brother and sister as well.

Except, um, I don't always understand my dad's words. He teaches 
law and writes law and history books and does stuff like help approve Sotomayor, all of which is waaaaay over my head. (That's Dad hanging out with Chief Justice Roberts. Of, like, the Supreme freaking Court.)

Here's what Dad emailed me today. Um, I don't get any of it at all. But it sounds smart. Good job, Dad!

Unless you are a Federal Courts geek, you probably paid little or no attention to the US Supreme Court’s decision in Haywood v. Drown (129 S.Ct. 2108), handed down at the end of the last term.  It held that a state may not divert section 1983 damage claims against state actors (corrections officers) from courts of general jurisdiction having jurisdiction over comparable claims to a court of limited jurisdiction (the Claims Court).  (The effect would have been to deny such claims altogether, since a state is not a “person” for section 1983 purposes.)  That may sound narrow and technical, even to lawyers, but there are momentous  issues lurking under the surface, chiefly the obligation of state courts to enforce federal rights and the even broader issues of  federal supremacy and supposed state sovereignty.  Anyway, a group of Fed Cts teachers, incl. me, joined in an amicus brief urging that result.  The heavy lifting was done by Steven Vladeck of AU, Lauren Robel of Indiana, and David Shapiro of Harvard.  I didn’t do anything more than a little pedantic editorial quibbling, but I was in stellar company: Judith Resnick of Yale, Erwin Chemerinsky at Irvine et al.

Monday, July 20, 2009

On the road part 2

Still on East Coast time, so I'm a little groggy, but the laundry's nearly done and the stack of books I dragged home has been jammed into the TBR shelf.
Lots of people have recorded the official goings-on at Thrillerfest - the panels, the debut authors, the famous guys - so I'll just note a few highly personal experiences. First of all, I got to visit the Random House offices. I guess in most ways the building isn't very different from any other downtown office building, with its echo-ey reception area and elevator banks and uniformed reception staff, but even before I put my hand on the door handle I got an incredibly reverent shivery feeling. Knowing I was about to enter a genuine New York publishing house just about did me in, my friends. 
And that's before I saw what they'd done with the decor. This is actually a two-story display, shelf upon shelf filled with first editions of the books Random House has published over the years. In person, it's astonishing, brilliant and humbling.

And here's a glimpse into an afternoon I'll never forget. This is the gen-u-ine Irish waitress who brought shots and chasers to our small and merry band - me and my agent and editor and publicist, all of us celebrating the book whose debut is now mere weeks away. Could I be any happier or more grateful? Nope, don't think so.

And finally, here's penance for that last, not-entirely-flattering shot I posted of me with my favorite industry professional...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

On the road part 1

I left home a week and a half ago and have been gallivanting up and down the East coast ever since.  Very late to report in, but the highlights of my first Thrillerfest include hanging out with my brother and an almost unimaginably varied collection of people from here and there.

My T-fest roommate's in that shot to the right, along with noir-gal Hilary and new friend Boyd.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

GenreGoRound Review

Thanks so much to Harriett Klausner of GenreGoRound Reviews for her kind words:

In Missouri, after several years of abuse from Ollie Hardesty and not believing in divorce, Stella took care of business. The widow opens up a sewing shop and could wear a T-shirt that says “I survived domestic violence the old fashion way by burying my spouse”.

Stella also believes she needs to help battered women like she was as a form of redemption for putting up with Ollie much too long and as an avenging angel dispatching retribution on these bullies. Stella keeps an eye on Roy Dean Shaw, ex mean ass husband of gentle mom Chrissy Shaw. When Roy Dean abducts Chrissy's two years old son Tucker, Stella decides this punk needs a permanent lesson in how to treat a lady. She affirms her feelings about this abusive moron when she learns he is part of the stolen auto parts mob. Chrissy, upset with his taking her infant, has had enough. As Sheriff Goat Jones watches Stella with his dreamy eyes, she hopes it is for her body and not her activity asshe leads Chrissy into hell as they team up to take care of Roy Dean and his car ring associates to rescue the baby from the mob.

This is an enjoyable jocular frolic as middle aged Stella takes on the world with no looking back as to whom she runs over when she does. She makes the tale work although the rest of the key cast members are fully drawn especially Chrissy and Roy Dean. The latter will soon learn what the wrath of a lioness is as she and her sidekick kick butt to rescue the infant. A BAD DAY FOR SORRY is a good day or three for readers.

- Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Professionalism is Important

So, you know that The Big Guy has sent you the most awesome agent when, upon being invited to a luncheon meeting with you and your editor and publicist, she responds:

"Perfect! I am for sure going to try and get into a bar fight."

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Interview with Sean Doolittle

I had the great pleasure of interviewing Sean Doolittle last month. Tony Black was kind enough to publish the interview on Pulp Pusher.

Read it here.

Ashley is Smart

Last night - after the fireworks - my daughter and her friend Ashley, who is thirteen, were shooting the breeze with me. Talk turned to books, and Ashley was kind enough to ask about how the current one was going (you know, the one I'm turning in Tuesday). She listened politely as I described the plot, and then pointed out that I never explained what happened to the body.

And I realized it was because I didn't know.

I nearly had a heart attack. Luckily Ashley and Sal were happy to brainstorm with me and they gave me a few options.

Maybe this is why I had kids...

Some extremely smart girls

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

July Column

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

As I write this, the RWA National Conference is less than a month away, and I’m starting to prepare for real, which entails buying new mascara (does anyone honestly throw it out after three months? I’d still be using my Maybelline Great Lash from senior year if it hadn’t dried up) - stealing all my earrings back from my daughter, and retrieving the Spanx from cold storage, since I spend fifty-one weeks per year in sweats.

As much as I dread the planning and the packing, I love the excitement of all those writers and readers condensing so much living into a few short days. Is there anything better than talking about our beloved craft from the first rays of daylight until the wee hours of the morning? How about meeting our heroes in person? The fresh-minted smell of a first edition in the bookseller room? Making small talk with the person sitting next to you in the audience while you wait for a workshop to begin – and discovering a soul mate?

My first RWA conference was in 1997, in Orlando. I had two little children and I was so excited by the prospect of a few nights alone in a hotel room that I almost didn’t mind that I didn’t know a soul. I pitched a truly terrible book to a well-known agent. (She was kind.) I forced myself to talk to strangers. I went home with a suitcase full of newly discovered authors. (Well, not the authors themselves – they would have exceeded that pesky fifty-pound limit…but dozens of their books.)

One of the best bits of advice I’ve received in the last few years was to treasure the firsts. You only get one first finished novel, for instance - so sisters, when you type THE END for the very first time, I hope you celebrate. Dance around the kitchen, hug the dog, call your mom – but make it special.

Same thing for your first conference. This is the only time in your life that you’ll walk into the throng and realize that all these women gathered in one place share your love of writing. It’ll take your breath away. Enjoy the panels, the spotlights, the publisher signings; queue up for Nora and Susan Elizabeth and Jennifer; meet a new BFF or three at the luncheons.

And for a few short days, forget the to-do list, the carmudgeonly boss, the demands of the kids. Refuse to consider limitations. Allow yourself to be inspired. Develop brash, lovely scenarios of your own future success – and give yourself the gift of believing in them.

If this isn’t your year, if you’re staying home instead of heading to DC, invest a day or an afternoon or even a single hour in nurturing your inner author. Remind yourself that you really can write your words today; that words turn into paragraphs, which turn into pages and chapters. Think about starting a fund for next year. It’s going to be in Nashville, baby – how can we not have a blast there?