Friday, October 30, 2009

November Column

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

Last month I attended Bouchercon, the largest convention for writers and readers of mystery. At 1,700 attendees, it’s not as large as RWA national, but those are still some pretty impressive numbers.

As always in these situations I found myself thinking that there is far more that unites genre fiction writers than divides us. I talk about this all the time, so I won’t take up column space here on the subject, but it’s a good segue into having a dialog about romance when in the public eye.

Three times since my last column I have had the opportunity to defend and champion the romance genre in a public forum.

The first was in a panel at the West Hollywood Book Fair titled “Strong Women in Fiction,” hosted by a councilwoman who is also the president of NOW. My fellow panelists were all wonderful and engaging, and when I politely disagreed with an audience member who suggested that readers of chick lit would not read feminist fiction, they listened with interest and respect.

The second was when my local paper printed an unflattering article about romance. I had to dash off my response quickly (it’s been a crazy busy month) but I pointed out that their depiction of the genre was outdated and inaccurate.

And the third time was on my Bouchercon panel about strong woman mystery protagonists. I shared my opinion that there’s room on the explicitness continuum for all kinds of readers, whether the subject is sex or violence, and that consciously cultivating tolerance creates a better fiction environment for everyone. Several audience members told me later that they appreciated that point of view. (There was also a definite grandmothers-who-kick-ass vibe…told them about our chapter and might have picked us up a few readers there!)

What strikes me about all of these dialogs is how much easier they get over time. At first, when I found myself talking to someone who put down romance, I felt defensive, angry, and combative. Now I feel far more comfortable in the role of educator.

In large part I think that is because I have come to believe that relationship stories are at the heart of nearly every worthy example of genre fiction – and a majority of them contain at least one romantic relationship. So now when I talk to people about writing romance, I try to make the point that nearly all of us do it, whether we realize it or not.

I’ll wrap up with an observation that may or may not be relevant. Who, of all the subgenres of folks at Bouchercon were most likely to talk about their spouses back home, to cite the support they receive, to show off wallet photos and in a couple cases regale the group with fond memories of how they met? That would be the hardboiled and noir guys. Yup, the ones who write about mayhem and the darkest corners of the human heart – they’re all romantics.

thanks to iamhomosquirrel, bitzi, and haribo for the Flickr photos

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Precious


My baby turned seventeen today.

We got him a puppy. Her name is Maisie Darla.

For the moment, all the cynicism's been knocked clear out of me :)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sneak Peek - Cover for BANISHED

I just got a peek at the cover for my Young Adult novel that will be out next fall and I ****ADORE**** it. Stephanie Moss is the artist over at Delacorte who came up with it. I think she's a genius, don't you?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bouchercon Report!

I'm still so tired I don't remember my name, but I'm back from Bouchercon with a wrecked voice, a stack of business cards and strange scrawls on cocktail napkins, and even more determination and enthusiasm than when I left.

God, I love being a writer! And the people are a big part of that. No finer folks, is all I'm saying.

Some of my favorite people managed to escape being snapped by me (not too tough to do, since all I had was an iPhone with no flash...and usually a drink in my hand). My roommate Gigi gave me some of her shots to use (just assume that all the good ones are hers).


First things first - these are my wonderful roommates, Juliet Blackwell and Gigi Pandian (and me on the right)



This is my Barbara-and-Irene posse - we're all repped by the same agency. Jamie Freveletti, Graham Brown, me, and Boyd Morrison You wouldn't believe how much fun we have together - eerie!



Here's a few of my pals' cover flats and bookmarks, out to lunch together



Here's me and Julie with my fellow Saint Martin's Minotaur authors, Brad Parks and Tracy Kiely. We're, like, family by now.



Tracy is adorable and funny all the time. Don't know how she does that.



That's my friends Hank Phillipi Ryan and Steve Hockensmith at "continuous conversation." The freaky thing about that was they were on this platform a few feet off the ground, and their chairs were thiiiiiis close to falling off. Couldn't concentrate at all worrying about it, so I don't know what they said!



Now here's something I hadn't seen before...a long line *of people I didn't know* at my signing table! Thrill of thrills!!!!

Now here's where things began to fall apart fast...


this is in the bar, when I was trying to steal thriller author Brett Battle's Barry award, which he had just won. I managed to wrest it away and paraded it around the bar for a while.



Brett tried to escape with our friend Cornelia Read by sneaking off to the spinning lounge on top of the hotel, but I found them. (Cornelia's drinking absinthe with milk. Seriously.)


Then they ran away to a nice local bar (with deer heads) to try to elude me but they didn't run far enough! Along the way they picked up blogger extraordinaire Jen Forbus.
Together we tried to deface some bar property, but that didn't work out very well.

Okay, that kind of gives you an idea of how it all went. Eventually a very nice person took me for a bracing walk and bought me a milkshake, and  then Julie and I went shopping and found some lovely, tasteful things to wear to RT in the spring (chortle) and crawled onto the jetway and collapsed.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Grace In Unexpected Places

Over at Pens Fatales, my friends and I have been talking about grace for the last week. I've loved reading about what it means to everyone, and the discussion has stayed in my mind as I've bumbled through my days.

A while back T-wa and I read a book together. MAYBE A MIRACLE is about a kid whose sister ends up in a coma after an accident, and how his life changes when a rust stain resembling Jesus appears on the side of his house and the sister starts bleeding from her palms and all kinds of holy rollers show up, looking for....well, whatever it is that religious zealots look for.

T-wa and I love that book and we also share both an unshakeable faith and a deep distrust of zealotry, but I had forgotten about the book until the other day he and Junior and I decided that a stain on his shirt (water filter mishap) resembled a map of the world, and wondered idly if he had been visited by a higher power with a message. No hordes of seekers have appeared outside our house, however.



Then when I was driving home from L.A. last weekend I stopped in an In'n'Out (the only thing that makes the L.A. <-> SF run bearable) and found this in a bathroom stall:



Frankly, I think that works for me - as fine an example of grace among us as any.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

WeHo Report: the West Hollywood Book Fair

I had wayyy more fun at the Book Fair over the weekend than I anticipated.

Of course book fairs are terrific, and when you throw in the grilled brats and live poetry you're pretty much guaranteed a delightful afternoon, but I was nervous. That's nothing new - I always get nervous before any event where I'm expected to say something smart. I have a strong conviction that I'll lose all my powers of speech.

This time was different.

First of all, several authors I've long admired were on site and I got to meet them for the first time. That, strangely, doesn't make me all that nervous. I'm not generally much of a fan girl; I don't simper or faint. And I figure if I *love* someone's work, we probably already have something in common, some fundamental understanding of the world and what constitutes a story.

Then, I met up with some friends I'd only known online. Now, Junior is constantly harranguing me about the dangers of all my online friendships - I think she's convinced I'll fall for that whole lured-into-chat-rooms thing - but once they became *real* my virtual friends were *still* charming and smart and fun.


with friends Michael, Debbie and PCN

And finally, my panel - which had the rather intimidating title "Take Back the Night: Strong Women in Fiction" - was populated with the most fascinating, warm, thoughtful authors and moderator. Our hosts were the WeHo Women's Advisory Council and they were over-the-top gracious. They gave me *roses*. Seriously - there are two beautiful pale-pink, crimson-tinged roses in a vase on my kitchen table. I was worried I wouldn't measure up - and instead, they made us feel like we were part of an important, soulful discussion from the start.

One of the highlights wasn't even at the fair...the night before, I had dinner with my friends author Sue Ann Jaffarian and woman-about-town/commentator Pop Culture Nerd. We sat down at 5pm....then there was silken mac'n'cheese with a crunchy crust, potato-chip crusted chicken (could there *be* a lovelier phrase in the english language? doubt it), sauteed corn with bacon...oh, it just went on and on. Well, five hours (!!) later I looked up and lo and behold, we had outlasted every other soul in the place. Which says something about our fortitude and conversational prowess, I think.

Sue Ann hinted at some shriek-worthy news. But, being the unflappable pillar of discretion that I am, I am going to make you all wait until she can announce it. Very exciting, though!

Still, I'm glad to be home. I got down to work today, and ground through much of the to-do stack that had accumulated in the 4 days I'd been away. I was so good, in fact, that I treated myself to a late lunch with my bad-girl writing friends J and R. Ohhhh....still laughing and blushing over that. You shoulda been there.


That's me at the Book Soup tent...okay I admit it, I just can't get enough of seeing my name in print!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Stella: Onward and Upward!!

I'm very happy to report that I have been contracted to write two more books - the third and fourth - in the Stella Hardesty mystery series for Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's.

My deepest gratitude to my editor, Toni Plummer, and of course to my agent Barbara Poelle.

And thanks also to Anne Gardner, who is a driving force behind any success my books find in the world. Anne is what every publicist ought to be.

Go team!

Here's the deal report from Publishers Marketplace:

Sophie Littlefield's next book in the San Francisco Chronicle and IMBA bestselling series featuring the fiesty Stella Hardesty, to Toni Plummer at Thomas Dunne Books, in a two-book deal, by Barbara Poelle at Irene Goodman Agency (NA).

In other news, I now have a release date for book two: A BAD DAY FOR PRETTY will be out on June 6, 2010.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Book Tours & WeHo

Never too early to start planning my next book tour, I suppose.

A BAD DAY FOR PRETTY will be out in June of next year and I'm already thinking about jumping in the car and barreling south on I5, headed for that In'n'Out halfway to LA.

Actually, In'n'Out and LA are on my mind because I'm headed for the West Hollywood Book Fair Sunday - I'm on a panel called "Feminism and Powerful Women in Fiction." That's right, Stella's a feminist! But we knew that already, right?

West Hollywood Book Fair
Sunday, Oct. 4
647 N. San Vicente Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90069


1 p.m.: Panel, “Take Back the Night: Feminism and Powerful Women in Fiction”; in the Fact, Fiction & Future Pavilion. With Cheryl Klein, Pam Ward and Terry Wolverton (moderated by Lindsey Hovarth)

2 p.m.: Signing books at the Manic D Press booth

Anyway here's a couple of articles that give a different spin on the author tour than you're likely to hear elsewhere:

Read what Ann Patchett had to say in the Atlantic.

Or what David Sedaris said in the New Yorker.