Monday, August 31, 2009

Nerd of Noir Review

This review by the Nerd of Noir left me speechless, in the best and most grateful way. The Nerd rocks. If I could go back in time, this is the guy I'd ask to the prom...

A Bad Day for Sorry is the debut of Sophie Littlefield and the introduction of what will no fucking doubt be a popular as all hell character named Stella Hardesty. This shit definitely reminds the Nerd of One for the Money, the first in the bounty hunter series by Janet Evanovich. Hopefully, as Littlefield’s series goes on, it won’t fall into some of the lamer-than-fucking-lame traps that Evanovich’s series has fallen head-fucking-first into.

A Bad Day for Sorry is about the search for rural Missouri woman’s son, a job capably handled by a gutsy old gal named Stella Hardesty. Stella murdered her abusive husband a few years back and has since taken side jobs teaching other women’s nasty husbands violent lessons, threatening them with guns and bondage equipment. But when Chrissy Shaw’s royal dick of a husband, Roy Dean, kidnaps her son, the stakes are undoubtedly fucking raised.

Right off the bat, Stella Hardesty proves herself an exciting and fresh character. She’s fifty years old and tough-as-they-fucking-come, and thankfully, Littlefield doesn’t paint her as a feisty cougar (sweet fucking Christ, did I just write the term “cougar”?) so much as realistically imposing (she’s got a lot of muscle on her but isn’t fit-looking) but with a charming spunk to her (I just wrote fucking “spunk” too, Jesus do I fucking suck). Her paid spousal avenger gig is a great idea, too, which will no doubt afford many more stories to come. Plus, Stella’s use of bondage equipment for the purposes of beating up on wife-beaters is fucking kinkily genius.

Also like One for the Money, Littlefield has a great sense of place and a good ear for dialogue. Her take on southern Missouri is very specific and refreshingly sober while also not succumbing to the temptation to have every citizen be a white trash stereotype. The dialogue also finds a nice balance, imparting “southern-ness” without going all Faulknerian on your ass either.

The mystery plot in Sorry is also subtly handled as well. As with all mysteries, shit gets “big” in the end, the players proving to be bad big-time boys, but Littlefield wisely never makes the villains out to be like fucking ridiculously high-up (“this shit goes all the way to the governor!” kind of shit). Also, the plot never gets too complicated for the world that Littlefield has set up. It’s a mystery, yeah, but in a smart just-enough-of-a-mystery sort of way – no huge retarded twists or any of that kind of bullshit.

Obviously, I dug this book, but that’s not to say I don’t have some reservations. Shit does get violent – good and graphically so during the book’s climax – but Littlefield makes it clear she’s not trying to go full-on noir. At this point, this series is not ready to go really dark, for Stella to kill the wrong man or make the truly tough choices. This especially shines through at the end when a major character is dead and then proves to be alive a few pages later (think the amazing joke about Val Kilmer’s character at the end of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang).

Also, there’s this whole sexual tension thing going on between Stella and the sheriff, something that raises red flags for the Nerd. As I said, as a fan of One for the Money, I grew tired of the whole “Will she go for Ranger or the cop?” bullshit part of the series that wore on into lameness for me. As it is right now, Littlefield isn’t going too crazy with their budding romance, but I fear much more about that shit could get tiresome later on. But then, I know that that’s what a lot of fans of the bounty hunter series like and Evanovich is like a fucking billionaire so what the fuck do I know other than that I likes what I fucking likes?

But I’m talking like I can see into the fucking future or something. A Bad Day for Sorry is a good book, funny and exciting and I can practically guarantee it will find a readership. I would totally read another Hardesty novel, but I just hope that the series runs more towards the darker aspects of this world than toward the cuter ones.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Two Nice Reviews

It's been a great day. Lazy morning, coffee and church, took Junior to a bad movie full of gratuitous violence, burgers on the grill tonight, planning to start a book that someone special sent me in manuscript form, AND I got 2 great reviews today.

First, Hallie Ephron of the Boston Globe had this to say:

The sleuth who takes the law into her own hands in Sophie Littlefield’s debut novel, “A Bad Day for Sorry,’’ is Stella Hardesty. Having dispatched her own abusive husband with the business end of a wrench, Stella takes tough and ornery to new levels. She has developed a “justice-delivering career,’’ her business driven through word of mouth from satisfied customers. She rides through the rural Missouri countryside in her husband’s beloved Jeep (“a sweet little green Liberty with chrome aluminum wheels and a sunroof’’) to strains of Emmy Lou Harris, stalking recalcitrant abusers and monitoring her “parolees.’’

Stella takes her Johnny Walker straight up, and she’d rather not have to use the yoke and spreader bar with restraint cuffs, or the electric shock baton, or that little Raven .25 “she took off a cheating son-of-a-bitch in Kansas City,’’ but some spousal abusers just won’t stay “whupped.’’ Still, her average quarry is an angel compared with the crew she tangles with when Chrissy Shaw hires her to find her reprobate husband who absconded with her 2-year-old son. Roy Dean Shaw’s new associates don’t mind using any weapon in their considerable arsenal.

By the end, Chrissy has become sidekick to Stella’s Dirty-Harry-in-a-housecoat. Not all the guys are jerks, and Stella gets a welcome assist from Sheriff “Goat’’ Jones, an easygoing hunk with an appreciation for an older woman who isn’t and never was a beauty queen.

An abundance of violence is leavened with humor and heart in this debut novel in what I hope is the start of a new series.

...and then, Jay Strafford of the Richmond Times Dispatch said this:

Try to picture a more pacific view of small-town Americana than this: a 50-year-old widow who runs a sewing-machine shop in Missouri.

But Stella Hardesty will make you change your mind. Sure, she knows about sewing, but she also knows how to bring a cheating, abusive man to his knees -- or to the hospital.

Such is the premise of Sophie Littlefield's first mystery, A Bad Day for Sorry (288 pages, Minotaur Books, $24.95), and it's markedly original. In this initial outing, Stella, who runs a vigilante service for abused women (she was one, herself) is approached by Chrissy Shaw, who tells her that her no-account husband, Roy Dean Shaw, has taken off with Tucker, Chrissy's toddler son from a previous relationship. As Stella sets out to retrieve Tucker and bring Roy Dean down a notch or four, she finds her own life in peril.

Littlefield uses words, not drawings, but this is as graphic a crime novel as you'll find this side of the thriller subgenre. The story's compelling, the dialogue perfect -- and Stella is one of the most memorable characters of this summer or any other.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Road Trip Part 2b

OK enough of that soft-hearted yammering from yesterday - here's the real road trip report.  We went down to LA for a few days and hit up a variety of bookstores and libraries, met all kinds of people who love books, and used up every last bit of our energy...

(as usual, I apologize for Blogger picture failures. There were lots more pix, but Blogger, for reasons known only to its cruel mind, refused to accept them.)

Margaret Grace, travel partner and road girl extraordinaire, has kind of a Dean thing

Juliet Blackwell and Ann Parker were my other two intrepid companions

I was thrilled that Aldo Calcagno came to see us at Mysteries to Die For in Thousand Oaks. Aldo published my first crime story on his site DarkestBeforeTheDawn.

Me, Juliet, Margaret and Ann at Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego

Me and Bobby McCue at Los Angeles' Mystery Bookstore

Monday, August 24, 2009

Road Trip Part 2a

I'll post the "real" pictures from our trip down to L.A. very soon...but first I have to share a lesson I re-learned along the way.  Well, it's a lot of lessons rolled into one, really.  It's part "stop and smell the roses" and part "it's the journey, not the destination" and part "nutrition is irrelevant when traveling" and part "don't be an asshole" (those last 2 are mine...the asshole thing is my number one rule of my new career, that and its corollary, which goes something like "be nice whenever you can muster the energy").

We were a little early for our gig in Thousand Oaks (pix etc. to follow) and Julie and I found this bakery. We decided we'd "work" for an hour, until it was time to go over to the shop. Only you can't really work without sustenance, so we ordered us some coffee and pastries.

Now I've been observing Julie on the road and I've noticed that she never misses an opportunity to engage people about their lives, their jobs, the day they're having. I'm trying to learn from her, so I chatted with the woman behind the counter who suggested the most delicious pastry they made, a sweet bread made by a baker from a Mexican city whose name I've already forgotten. Then this lady introduced us to her granddaughter, Annabel, as well as Annabel's mama and the boy helping out. We talked and carried on for a while and when we finally left, we'd exchanged email addresses and they had given us a tray of goodies to take over to the bookstore with us.  Why?  Absolutely no good reason, that I could figure. Just because they're nice people who are proud of their delicious products and felt like sharing.

I have to add that at one point in our visit, a loud and angry woman came in and yelled for about ten minutes about how our new friends had screwed up this giant cake she ordered. When she was finally shown that the error was her own, she did back down, but what made an impression on me was the way the three generations of bakery ladies handled the whole thing...with good-humored detachment. There was a what're-ya-gonna-do quality to their polite interaction the problem customer, and they seemed to forget the whole thing after she left. No lingering caustic revenge fantasies, for instance, which is where I always go...

I'll tell you, that sure set the tone for the rest of the trip for me. I'll get back to the BSP tomorrow I guess, but today I'm still kind of feeling warm and fuzzy and zen-like.  It probably won't last, but it's been nice nonetheless.

Julie with bakery ladies

Annabel in a shy moment

Tiny Red Velvet cupcakes and brownies....yum!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Love Potion Number Nine

I'm number nine :)
As in, #9 on the San Francisco Chronicle Best-Sellers list for August 23rd. I love it. I have been staring at myself - well, my name, anyway, emblazoned there for all the world to see among all my crazy colleagues, like Thomas Pynchon (I know, no WAY!) and Stieg and Carlos and Barbara...

Funny word that..."colleague".  Y'know? It's from the Latin collega, "one chosen to serve with another."  Yes, overblown as the notion may be, I really do think of other working writers as being my colleagues, chosen to serve with our words. 'Cause we're all just head down, doing our job, that writing thing. (Well, Barbara has to do that "governing" thing in addition to that "writing" thing.) We're just a bunch of craftsmen, really, moving words around on the page. Honors mean nothing to us. Lists mean - 
ah, fuck it. I'm thrilled. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Good Afternoon, JAPAN!

So it's already tomorrow afternoon in Japan, and I'm just about to head to bed myself, which never fails to confound me. See, I'm not really all that well-traveled. (YET.) I've been to Europe and all, but it's only tomorrow morning there, which I can kind of get my head around. But tomorrow afternoon? Freaky.

I realize that reveals a streak of rube-ish-ness (rubitude? rubity?) a mile wide, but we adults have so few opportunities to be wide-eyed and slack-jawed with wonder that I think I'll just hang onto my naivete, thanks.

See, Japan - actually, the nice people at Hayakawa Publishing, which is in Japan - have just bought the rights to A BAD DAY FOR SORRY.  Yes, that's right - my very first ever foreign sale! And I'm so giddy over it, I probably won't be able to sleep

Also, apparently if I go visit, I get to write it off. Like, you know, a business expense. Crazy!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Road Trip Part 1

So I'm back from Phoenix. I did manage to get my spectacular faux pas in, though it came late in the trip and I was beginning to think the curse was lifted. No such luck. And no, there ain't NO WAY I'm telling...I'm compiling all of these for my speech when I'm the Bouchercon Grand Master when I'm 70!

Thanks to my tour buddies Julie and Ann, who made it all fun. We leave again on Thursday for L.A., with our girl Margaret Grace. 

Here's some highlights...

Julie, me and Ann with our books

Me and Keith Rawson at the Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale. 

Julie, Ann, and me clustered adoringly around Lesa Holstein of the Glendale Library in Phoenix. Why? Because she's everything a librarian should be - a champion of books and 
- lucky for us - authors.

We crashed a Poisoned Pen potluck that featured Sean Doolittle, Christopher Reich, and Michael Koryta.  That's Barbara Peters doing the interview honors.

And finally here's a shot from an event with my friend Steve Hockensmith at Book Passage in Corte Madera...

Taskmaster Steve tells me how it's done

Interview at Pulp Pusher

Read an interview with me here , at Pulp Pusher .

I do love this interview, partly because the two guys behind it - interviewer/author Kieran Shea and Pulp Pusher editor Tony Black  - are friends of mine. (Monster talented friends, in fact. They're both going to be around for a long time so y'all might as well get used to them!)

Thanks guys - I owe you a round!

PS sorry for the picture weirdness. Blogger-In-Draft, which I thought was heaven-sent, is actually demonic and won't let me size or move the shots like I want to.  That's Tony up there and Kieran at right.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Sun Sentinel Review

Many, many thanks to Oline Cogdill of the South Florida Sun Sentinel for her review of A BAD DAY FOR SORRY.


By Oline H. Cogdill
Sun-Sentinel Mystery Fiction Columnist
A Bad Day for Sorry. Sophie Littlefield . Minotaur. $24.95. 288 pp.
In her debut novel, Sophie Littlefield shows considerable skills for delving into the depths of her characters and complex plotting as she disarms the reader.
On the surface and as the title implies, A Bad Day for Sorry seems to be a quirky, cozy tale about a middle-aged Missouri woman who dabbles in helping abused women. With wry humor and a penchant for rural sayings, Stella Hardesty exudes sassiness.
But Littlefield quickly spins this premise into a more hard-edge look at domestic violence, vigilante justice, life’s regrets and taking control of your life.
While the author keeps a sense of humor flowing through her novel, she doesn’t sacrifice plot or realism for a joke. One could call Stella “sassy,” but it would be better to call her relentless, capable and perceptive. She’s no super-hero, but what she does in her “justice-delivering career” is both heroic and illegal.
The fiftysomething Stella lives in the fictional Prosper, Mo., which seems to be located somewhere in the western part of the Show Me State. A widow who is estranged from her only daughter, Stella operates a sewing shop that she inherited from her late, abusive husband -- whose demise she had a hand in.
A marriage filled with assaults and verbal humiliation has made Stella determined to help other women “whose worst sins were bad judgment and displaced loyalty.” And this “sideline” includes making sure the abusive men get a taste of what they’ve been meting out, even if that means some light bondage or heavy “whuppin’.”
Stella’s latest case takes a turn she hadn’t expected. She thought she had taught Chrissy Shaw’s no-good husband Roy Dean all he needed to know. Then Roy disappears, taking Chrissy’s two-year-old son with him.
But this may not be Roy’s way of getting back at Chrissy. Roy may be involved with local mobsters dealing in stolen auto parts.
Stella stopped being a victim years ago; now Chrissy must make the same transformation if the two of them are to find the child.
Littlefield keeps the plot churning with realistic action that doesn’t let up. She also allows the moral ambiguity of vigilante justice to enhance this story. The author taps into the growing frustration that courts and laws often can’t stop domestic violence. Therefore, one can root that an abuser is being taught a lesson, even if the way isn’t legal. Littlefield makes Stella’s campaign understandable while not glorifying her methods.
A Bad Day for Sorry’s characters are believable. Stella’s maturation to avenger rings true as does her lifetime of regrets. Her crush on the local sheriff also feels authentic as do his mutual feelings; of course, both are too stubborn to let the other know their heart’s desires.
Littlefield’s exciting debut should be the start of an even more exciting series. 

Friday, August 7, 2009

OK, OK, I Promise I'm Nearly Over Myself....

But I just couldn't help posting this, after T. and I ran all over town trying to find a copy:

Entertainment Weekly Has a Crush on Stella :)

Now here's some news worth getting out of bed for - Entertainment Weekly magazine's review in today's issue:

Sophie Littlefield

The Story
She owns a sewing shop, but what fiftysomething badass Stella Hardesty really does is dispense justice to abusive husbands and boyfriends, having discovered that "whuppin' ass wasn't so hard."

TV Pitch: Put Cagney or Lacey in rural Missouri.

Lowdown: Crime fiction hasn't seen a character as scrappy, mean, and incredibly appealing as Stella in a long time. A-

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

How Was Release Day, You Ask?

Flippin Awesome!

One of the nicest parts was getting phone calls and emails from people all over the place just wishing me well. It softened my cynical crusty heart considerably and by noon I was awash in tears and fortifying Diet Coke.

Last night was the signing at M is for Mystery, and fellow featured author Steve Hockensmith made it not only palatable but kind of fun, other than the terrified dry heaves part. We sold all the books and, despite my trucker mouth, I don't think I offended too many people.

When I got home (late, following obligatory post-signing bar wallow) I discovered a bouquet of flowers lying on my keyboard. My sweet son biked over to safeway and spent his allowance on them while I was out carousing. He's proud of me.

Thank you, Big Guy...a day can't really get much better than that, I don't guess.

me and the debonair Steve Hockensmith

me and the boy who would make any mama proud

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Release Day!

My release day has finally arrived!

A BAD DAY FOR SORRY is out of the nest and into the world.

Sloppy gratitude to everyone who helped me along the way!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

August Column

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

The national conference is good for lots of things, but one of the best is a reminder that what we do is of value. Gathering with our colleagues who share in this endeavor, we celebrate, strategize, appreciate and honor the genre – a worthy exercise in a world that’s a little slow to come around, as evidenced yet again in the press commentary on the conference itself.
Chapter member Rachael Herron popped a quote on her blog that is so apt I’m going to shamelessly steal it. It’s from Sarah Wendell of the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books blog, a response to the question of why feminists should read romance: 
“It’s a 50-plus-year-old industry comprised mostly of women writers operating their own businesses and producing a genre about women’s self-actualization, pursuit of autonomy, and acquisition of sexual agency for an audience made mostly of women, who buy over $1.4 billion dollars worth of books a year. No, no, nothing feminist or even subversive about that."
I was recently invited to be part of a panel discussion on feminism – specifically “feminism and powerful women in fiction.” I’m very much looking forward to having the chance to make the point we all understand instinctively – that powerful women characters not only are not exempt from our genre, they are part of every genre’s best examples.
I still read to my teenage daughter before bed (hush, don’t tell anyone). We read YA, mystery, and romance, and it delights me to observe that she does not have a tiered view of different genres. Books are all either interesting or boring, and she doesn’t feel compelled to apologize for her choices.
Is it possible that our kids’ generation is, in this arena as in so many others, refusing to discriminate where prior generations have done so with impunity? We already know that our children won’t play when it comes to old racial and gender and sexual-orientation stereotypes – it’s an invigorating notion to think that they might insist on the right to read what they like, without judgment, the canon be damned.
If you’re like me, you came back from National with a suitcase full of books. Why not consider passing along the best of them, the ones that make you love to read romance, to someone who might not have encountered romance in the past? Let them speak for themselves; a lecture isn’t necessary when the story does the talking.
Give a YA romance title to a young reader, and it’s true that you’ll be helping to build a future audience. But you’ll also be reinforcing a notion whose time is long overdue: that all genres are worthy, and that the enjoyment of books reflects well on their readers as well as their authors.