Thursday, December 22, 2011

Along Publishers Row...

I have been meaning to mention for a while that I got a few column inches in the Author's Guild Bulletin a while back, in their "Along Publishers Row" feature. It wasn't a huge deal or anything - they were reprinting a few of my comments on doing research - but it was still a cool moment for me because, I mean, it's like the *AUTHOR'S* guild. You know, for real, professional authors.

I guess I still am battling a little of Impostor Syndrome. Where I feel like, at any moment, "They" will come along and say it was all a mistake, that it was some *other* Sophie Littlefield who they meant to give the book contract to, that I really ought to go back to doing what I was doing before, letting my dreams simmer on the back of the stove.

I think we all have different ideas about what constitutes "making it," whether it's a paycheck or a review venue or an online ranking or a bookstore shelf. To my surprise, it's an ongoing process. I never had a moment where I felt like I went from striver to professional. It's been a gradual thing and honestly, some days I feel like an amateur all over again.

I don't really mind, though, for a couple of reasons. First of all, a little uncertainty keeps my determination fine-honed. And second, I love these moments - and there are many, if you stop to enjoy them - when I am reminded that I really am doing what I set out to do.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

End-of-Year Review Love

Starting sometime in December, bloggers and reviewers release their lists of favorite reads of the year. I'm thrilled that a number of my books are popping up on lists here and there. Thanks to all readers who take time to share their thoughts with the community.

Paul Goat Allen, reviewing for Barnes&Noble, put AFTERTIME on his Top Zombie Reads of 2011 list. Actually, he named it #1. Blush. Happy blush.

Tina, of Tina's Book Reviews, put AFTERTIME on her top reads list, but I especially love the name of the award she gave it: The "I Had No Idea I Would Love This So" award :)

Jen, at Red Hot Books, chose REBIRTH on her favorite reads list. Thanks, Jen!

Janet at the Rocky River Public Library put A BAD DAY FOR SCANDAL on her top ten reads of 2011.

A BAD DAY FOR SORRY is on Amy's Best "New To Us" in 2011 list - thanks to the Wake Forest, NC library system.

New Story: "The Stain Carrier"

I have a new short story up at Beat To A Pulp! This is a great site for noir fiction - in the able hands of editor David Cranmer - and I hope you'll check out all the archives because there is some amazing writing to be found there.

Read "The Stain Carrier" here. I'd love to hear what you think.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Publishing for Vision & Hearing - Win ME!

Okay, can't exactly win ME, but trust me, you wouldn't want that anyway. I'm a little high maintenance in person. But, I AM a pretty damn good critiquer, if I do say so myself. Some of the people I've read for before have gone on to get great agents, publishing contracts, and sweeeeeet indie pub sales. (Super proud of my pal Rebecca Lyndon for selling over 800 copies of her debut novella in the first few weeks.)

If you'd like a piece of that action, click right here. The best part is that you'll be supporting efforts to combat blindness and deafness. The Irene Goodman Agency has been working hard for this cause for many years. You can read more about it below.

And if I'm not your cup of tea, fear not! There are dozens of other authors, agents, and editors signed on to critique. Make your bid any time in December, and let's plan to kick some publishing ass together in the new year!

We auction the editorial services of editors, agents, and bestselling authors to give feedback to aspiring writers. Auction items can range from a lunch meeting to a proposal evaluation to an entire manuscript critique. All net proceeds go directly to the Foundation Fighting Blindness, the Deafness Research Foundation, and other research organizations or clinics that further our cause. Through this auction, the united talent and expertise of the publishing community will dramatically transform lives. Our goal is to put ourselves out of business by making the twin scourges of blindness and deafness a thing of the past.

Mike's CLAWBACK cover revealed!

Aaaagh, how hard it's been to resist posting this cover until it was public. I LOVE my brother's book, as you are probably tired of hearing.

Too bad you have to wait until March for THIS:

"After a stint in the Middle East, black ops vet Silas Cade becomes an "accountant"-the go-to for financiers who need things done quickly, quietly, and by any means necessary. Silas is hired by a major player to pay a visit to a hedge fund manager to demand clawback: the mandatory return of compensation paid on a deal that goes bad. But before Cade can tell his client that he got his ten million back, the guy turns up dead.

And he's not the first. Someone's killing investment bankers whose funds have gone south. Silas's scrubbed identity, and his insider's perspective, makes him the ideal shadow man to track down whoever's murdering some of the most hated managers on Wall Street. With the aid of a beautiful financial blogger looking to break her first big story, Silas tracks a violent security crew who may be the key to the executions. But as paranoia and panic spread, he begins to wonder: is the threat coming from inside the game-or out?

With breakneck pacing, nonstop action, and cutting edge details of today's financial intelligence technology, Clawback hurtles to its final twist, a gripping contemporary tale of shady finance, venal corruption, and greed run rampant."

Check out Mike's web site, or follow him on twitter or Facebook.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Current Events Pie

An annual tradition at the Littlefield house, current events pie is a chance for Auntie and the kids to share what's going on in the world...with pastry.

This year's was pretty tough. Can you figure it out?

Ah, yes...the Republican slate of would-be presidents, each with his or her emblem...there's a "newt" (lizard), a tea party for michelle, pizza for Herman, skinny jeans for Mitt, EPA for Rick, communist sickle for Huntsman to honor his ambassadorship to China.

Of course the best thing of all was having our boy home. Picking him up at the train was one of my happiest moments.

Monday, November 21, 2011

My Thanksgiving Post

I'm thankful for my family and friends, of course, and for blessings earned and unexpected both. In no particular order:

Hearing "Mom, I love it here" after sending my baby out of the nest and off to college.
Fantastic co-workers, some of whom blur the whole friend/colleague line so hard you'd never know a line was ever there. In particular the one who never met a cliff she didn't want to jump off, and never runs out of "Hell yeah"
The sunset on the Lost Coast, even if - perhaps especially if - I hadn't showered in 4 days.
The wig shop - and the example G2 sets every day, and the gargoyle angel watching over her.
Everyone fighting over Mike.
Youthful ebullience - Junior's, and occasionally, mine. :)
That night on the roof.
Discovering a new, obscure author who took my breath away. Reading a passage that makes my heart pound. Reading.
Don Giovanni, and a spectacular donut.
A new Pen, and the old ones. Knowing there's a tire iron and an alley - figuratively, of course - for anyone who crosses us.
Parking lots and dashboard lights.
Smitty's, knowing there's a place JB'll always take me in, fries for dinner, Laphroaig, secret decoder necklaces, the way you always think your hair looks worst when it looks the BEST, sharing Watermelon Burts Bees, 1000 other things we haven't discovered yet.

Did I mention the best job in the world? If I ever finish this beast of a book, this is how I want to celebrate:

I want to walk into my favorite bar with my trusty sidekick. Outside it'll be raining, but inside it'll be as cozy as only neon bar signs and career drinkers and old linoleum floors and Marcello can make it. There, at the bar, will be Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson. They'll buy us a drink - probably a shot of Old Crow with a bottle of Rolling Rock, and we'll spend the night telling tales. At about three in the morning, someone will suggest getting a little something to eat at the Merritt Diner. Probably a pile of bacon and a scrambled egg. And if Willie steals a kiss as the sun comes up and we stagger home, well, sometimes you just have to live a little.

Thank You, Big Guy, for blessing me every day and for keeping things interesting.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Winner: Heather E.!

I just had Junior help me draw a winner for my writing book collection, and it's Heather E.! Heather, I don't have a way to reach you via email so I really hope you see this. I'll give it a week before drawing another winner - the books are all boxed and taped up and ready to go!

Thanks to everyone else for participating. I loved reading all the comments about your favorite how-to books and manuals.

I always feel like a blog post should have a photo to keep it interesting, so here, for no good reason, are a couple of photos of gifts I recently received. How great is it to be me - my friends keep me well supplied with zombie paraphernalia!

Zombie cookie cutter from Rebecca

Zombie mug from Gigi

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Win My Writing Library!

So once again I have moved and found that I don't have room in my office for all my books. This time, I'm going to give away the writing manuals and guides that have served me well. It's a good collection, because the last time I moved I gave away the ones that weren't very helpful - the baker's dozen that remain, pictured below, are my "keepers."

I'm definitely not saying I know everything there is to know about writing, and I'm sure I'll build up a whole new library in the future, but I've read these books and now it's time for them to find a new home.

To enter to win, just leave me a comment - tell me your own favorite writing book, or just say hi. Of course, as always, I appreciate a Facebook "like" or a Twitter follow.

I'll draw a winner this weekend.

P.S. You may notice my copy of King's ON WRITING isn't included. 'Cause I'll never part with that one.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tinfoil Shoes

Last week Maureen Dowd wrote about, of all things, the biannual Manolo Blahnik sample sale. I didn't know much about the guy, except he designs shoes that are wayyyy out of my price range, but then I read this:

"During [Blahnik's] lonely childhood in the Canary Islands, he captured lizards and made shoes for them out of tinfoil saved by his mother from her Camel cigarette cartons."

There is so much story in that single sentence. If I had the cash I'd go out and buy a pair right now, I love that so much.

Perhaps these.

Friday, November 4, 2011

AFTERTIME Nominated for Goodreads Choice Award

i was thrilled to discover that AFTERTIME was nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award in the Horror Category. I'd love it if you'd consider voting for AFTERTIME to help me advance to the next round! Or cast your vote for my dear friend Steve Hockensmith, who's up for DREADFULLY EVER AFTER....either way, the good guy wins.

Vote here...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

WIN a critique by most awesome agent ever!

...that would be MY agent, Barbara Poelle!

Actually, you can win lots more than a critique, which includes a review of the first thirty pages of your manuscript from Barbara. On the prize list are four hot new releases - including my latest!

UNFORSAKEN by Sophie Littlefield
DEADLY COOL by Gemma Halliday
THE NEAR WITCH by Victoria Schwab
GHOST COUNTRY by Patrick Lee

The contest is being hosted by Janet Reid and billed as the Most Terrifying Contest Ever. To enter, you'll be writing Halloween themed story using 100 words or fewer. Find all the details at Janet's site, here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

UNFORSAKEN release day!

Isn't this a gorgeous book? Looking back over the last three years - it was three years ago, Thanksgiving week, that Delacorte signed me to write for them - it has been an amazing journey from my idea of a girl who had the power to heal, to the story that unfolded over the course of two books. BANISHED came out a year ago, and UNFORSAKEN finishes telling Hailey Tarbell's story.

I learned a lot while writing this series, and I worked with some amazing editors to bring the story to life. In some ways, I feel like I am just getting started writing for young people. I've been blessed with some great friends and mentors in the community and I can't wait to see where the future takes me. Next year, I'll have a new novel out with Delacorte - a whole new set of characters, in a seaside town cursed by the disappearance of children one year earlier.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

ComicCon Update: Zombie Day!

This is so cool! If you happen to be at ComicCon, definitely stop by the Harlequin booth on Friday, when you can get "zombified" by makeup artist Edward O’Rourke. I'm not really sure what that entails but I KNOW I am ridiculously jealous of everyone who gets to do it. To the right is an example of what Edward can do!

I can't say for sure but I wouldn't be surprised if you might be able to get one of those stickers like the one I put on my car, the one everyone has been emailing me about. I get it - you covet my sticker!

From Harlequin's news post:

This is our first time at the illustrious comic book and sci-fi convention and we couldn’t be more thrilled about it. There are definitely some self-described nerds on the Internet and Digital team and they’ll be presenting the finest of Harlequin and Carina Press’s series to delight the fans. Stop by booth #2021 and enter to win a Kobo eReader Touch Edition and a library of 50 free eBooks from Carina Press! We’ve got loads of things happening throughout the weekend, too. In homage to Sophie Littlefield’s Aftertime series, Friday is zombie day. Come by the booth and be “zombified” by makeup artist Edward O’Rourke. Come back on Saturday to meet author C.E. Murphy who will be signing in the booth from 11-12. And don’t miss Julie Kagawa who will be signing from 2-4 pm. Follow @HarlequinBooks and @CarinaPress for news. See you there!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Flash Me from NYC Comic Con - win REBIRTH

So, New York Comic Con is next week. I wish I was going to be there! But the next best thing is that Harlequin put an excerpt of my final AFTERTIME book, HORIZON, in their giveaway booklet. I just got a copy in the mail from my pal Jayne Hoogenberk, and this thing is so slick! It's also got excerpts from Julie Kagawa's new one, IRON KNIGHT, and a little something from Stacey Gail from the upcoming CLOCKWORK CHRISTMAS anthology.

I happen to have a few copies of REBIRTH lying around to give away. So, the first three people to send me pictures of themselves at the Harlequin booth - preferably with the booklet in hand, or with Margo or Jayne or any of the other fantastic Harlequin people, will receive a signed copy. Just send to :) Or tweet it - I'm swlittlefield on twitter!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Bouchercon Report!

I'm back from Bouchercon for twenty-four hours, long enough to get groceries, cook, clean, do four loads of laundry, shuttle Junior around, and oh yeah, work on the book!

Did I have a marvelous time? Why, yes, of course I did. This was my fifth Bouchercon, if you can believe it. Four years ago, in Anchorage, I met Juliet Blackwell, and for the past few years she's been my conference roommate and travel buddy and all-around partner in crime. So grateful! And this year, my brother Mike - who's got a book coming out this spring - was in attendance as well. I could hardly ask for more.

By the time I arrived in St. Louis - a couple of hours from the central Missouri town where I grew up - I had a long list of people I hoped to visit with. I wish I could say there was time to spend with them all. But despite burning every candle in sight at both ends, I returned home having missed a few.

Signing at the Crimespree booth with Julie and Brad Parks

I bowled a spectacularly poor game with my team, the Minotaur Marauders - but we won the "Best Shirts" prize!

My brother Mike Cooper with Pam Callow

with Hillary Davidson - before her Anthony win!

with my agent Barbara Poelle. I am not actually twice her size though every photo of us together makes it seem so!

Room Party! - with darling Johnnie from MurderByTheBook in Houston

One of my two favorite roommates, Nicole Peeler, adorably snuggled in for the night

Other highlights:

spending some time with Maddee, web designer extraordinaire and dear friend

seeing Sarah and the whole St. Martins crew

attending my first Noir At The Bar

meeting Chris and Katerina Holm for the first time

seeing old friend and mentor and all-around great guy Craig Macdonald

shaking hands, for the second year in a row, with idol Daniel Woodrell

having coffee and a chat with Oline Cogdill

Having a 10:00 AM (yes that's AM, folks) shot and beer with a mystery writer friend who I shall not name, whose talent is matched only by his stories

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

On The Stands This Month - More Than Usual of Me

In a lovely, strange confluence of events, I am in not one but two magazines this month: the October issues of both Writer's Digest and Psychology Today!

In the former I wrote an essay for an article called "What an Agent Can Really Do For You," in which I assiduously avoid the question and ramble on about how Barbara and I are basically industry Glamour-Don'ts.

In Psychology Today, my brother and I were in this article called "Talent Dynasties: When Siblings Share the Spotlight." In the car today Junior said dubiously, "I wouldn't exactly call you and Uncle Mike a 'dynasty'" and changed the subject, so it seems doubtful that fame will ensue. It was a lot of fun, but after taking ten billion photos of us, they picked the one where Mike looks scowly, as if he's thinking "ha, Franzen, I don't see your literary ass in here!" and I look tentative and bland, not at all like a writer of apocalypses and bondage gear. They did airbrush out my cellulite, however, so I am not complaining.

Monday, September 5, 2011

BANISHED giveaway winners!

Hope everyone had a lovely holiday! Thanks to all who followed/tweeted/liked for me last week. I'm happy to be sending signed copies of BANISHEd to five of you! If you could, please email me with your snail mail address and the name you'd like the book signed to, if any.

BANISHED is suitable for readers age 13 and older. If you like it, please be on the lookout for UNFORSAKEN, the companion novel, due out October 11.

Melissa - @MelLHay on twitter
Eileen Hutson - @madjon51 on twitter
Trisha Ziegenhorn
Shelley Romano
Jeri Smith-Ready

Friday, September 2, 2011


The paperback version of my first young adult novel, BANISHED, will hit the stands in a couple of weeks, but I'm giving away five signed copies now to celebrate!

Lots of ways to qualify for the drawing - you can:

"like" my Facebook fan page...

follow me on Twitter...

RT or tweet this drawing on Twitter...

mention it on your blog (I'll put you in the drawing three times for that!)...

...or just post a comment here if you're already following/liking/whatever-ing me. (glad we're friends. :)

Winners posted early next week.

More Audiobooks!!

I spoke too soon: I have, not three, but FIVE audiobooks out, which makes me feel indescribably happy.
Click here for the first two in the AFTERTIME series - you can hear a free sample at Audible:



Thank you to Steve Feldberg of, for taking on the project; Ellen Archer (at right) for providing the excellent narration; and Jayme Mattler at OutLoud audio for the meticulous read she gave the project. What a team!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

All three Stellas - out on audiobook versions!

So pleased to announce that all of the Stella Hardesty mysteries are now available as audiobooks! Click any of the following to find them at


The folks at St. Martin's and Audible have found smart, sassy, irresistible women to read the books. A BAD DAY FOR SCANDAL bears the voice of the incomparable Barbara Rosenblat, with whom I've had the pleasure of corresponding. She is a kick, truly one of "our girls," if you know what I mean. I've not yet met Kym Dakin, but she too nails the spirit of Stella.

Barbara Rosenblat

If you're an audiobook fan, I hope you'll consider giving these a whirl. Audible lets you listen to a sample for free, which is a feature I appreciate - because it's so disappointing to buy an audiobook only to discover that the voice doesn't match the story or characters. Luckily for me, I have no worries on that score!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Farewell Summer

I love summer...and I mourn its slipping away on the heels of September, even here in California where we are blessed with gorgeous days every month of the year. Summer is a certain breezy idleness; summer smells of sunscreen and sweat and barbecue grills and wet dogs, and other untold loveliness.

In my childhood I spent summer with books stuffed in my bike bag. Library books, mostly, everything I could find, a treasure chest of possibilities - best-loved re-reads and daring pilferings from the adult shelves, all jammed in the bag with my favorite languid-day snack, ritz-cracker sandwiches made with crunchy peanut butter. I would bike to Nickel pond (if you are reading this, Mike, I know you're smiling) or hike to "our" tree house, the one we inhabited like hermit crabs in a borrowed shell, a mile or so back in the woods behind our house.

(It seems odd now, looking back, but I never once gave a thought to the unknown persons who constructed the tree house. Obviously, they'd gotten old, too old to appreciate a good and magical thing, moved on to the adult world of jobs and obligations, and so they didn't matter to me at all. The house wasn't much, a series of planks nailed to a trunk, with a rough plywood platform in the high-above branching-out of the tree; but I adored it. I read Little Women there, all of it; Franny and Zooey. I dreamed of writing my own book.)

This year the end of summer is especially poignant because my baby is going to college. We took one final trip together, to visit family in Boston.

My brother made me a pie. Well, I guess he made everyone a pie, but I choose to believe it was mostly for me. Blueberry, like our gramma used to make.

I took a couple of the kids to Fenway Park - the team was out of town, but we got to walk around all we wanted...

What's summer without junk food? We ordered every disgusting thing on the menu at this pub next to the park:

One day we took the ferry out to one of the harbor islands and camped. The bugs stayed away, camp food was delicious (as always) and we got to watch one of the most magical sunsets of my life. The Boston skyline shimmered in the last rays of the sun, the slowly came to sparkling life as the lights came on one by one. The tide came in and covered the remains of the pier at waters' edge, and the evening concluded with a campfire, as every summer evening should...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Author Central - the Devil in the Details

Yesterday I shared a link, via twitter, to a New York Times article I found kind of amusing. In “In St. Louis, I’m a Failure”, author Matt Richtel talks about amazon’s new-ish offering for authors, Author Central, via which – among other things – you can get regional sales data for all your books.

I pounced on Author Central as zealously as any author when it first appeared, and immediately suffered the shivering horrors that are the special domain of the paltry-selling author. I wobbled between shame and fear every time I checked my stats. But eventually, the novelty wore off, and it was more of a snooze to view than anything. I mean, really, why disappoint yourself over and over and over again when it’s out of your control anyway?

That’s still my basic feeling about the thing, though every time they upgrade it, there’s a minor flurry of commentary much like Richtel’s article. He’s funny, though, which is why I tweeted it.

But then, my editor Adam jumped in with a few comments of his own. They didn’t fit neatly into the 140-char format so I’ve assembled them here:


hey authors, did you see this? did it make you wince? tell the truth now


Makes me wince a bit not not because I want to control info flow to authors but because of Bookscan becoming increasingly unreliable, and as an editor part of my job is to give authors CONTEXT, which Amazon# s don't necessarily. To rely totally on those numbers would also be engaging in the same fallacy authors may accuse publishers of: making it all about one set of numbers re the past, instead of plans for the future & putting your efforts behind what you believe is quality.

I just want to illustrate this with a little tale of my own. When AFTERTIME came out last year, I had high hopes, not just because I loved writing that book but because Adam had worked so hard on its behalf. Simply put, I wanted him to feel like his efforts were worthwhile.

But oh, those Amazon numbers. They went from unimpressive to downright flaccid to flatline in what seemed like no time at all. I was traveling at the time, and I remember sitting in a coffee shop with my long-suffering tour partner Juliet Blackwell, whining about how my career was over and I’d be lucky to get a job selling bagels, and she was telling me to shut up and let her work when the phone rang and it was my agent Barbara. Calling, I was quite certain, with the terrible news that Harlequin was canceling the series due to the book's shocking underperformance.

That was not the case.

I won’t blather on all the boring details, and let me make it clear that the book didn’t blow the socks off any charts, but it turns out that Amazon numbers did NOT tell the whole story. Since then I have learned a few more interesting things about who buys what on Amazon…information that has, frankly, convinced me it would be prudent to mostly ignore the statistics. They simply don’t matter enough to be worth my time.

Hey, by the way, you could do a lot worse than to follow Adam. He’s pretty damn smart. You could follow Barbara too, and Juliet, if you’re so inclined, and then you’ll have a 360-degree view into my career. For what it’s worth ☺

Friday, July 29, 2011

Hellooooooo Forty-Eight!

I have a dear friend, a fellow author, who says that us female writers of a certain age ought to stay mum about how old we are. That we'll benefit from a little confusion on the subject, a little conjecture that we might be younger than we truly are.

To that I say uh-uh. I turned 48 this week and I don't care who knows it. So far it's been great, and I have a feeling that this might be a big year for me. Later this month I'm going on my first backpack trek, six days in the mountains overlooking the Pacific. I'm wrapping up a book that pretty much wrote itself and I'm going to start a new one next week that is going to blow everyone away, including me. Oh, and I was propositioned by a 23-year-old last week. So I say, I'm not sure what I stand to gain by shaving a year or two or ten off my age - 48 is just fine.

Besides, I have these two as role models: Camille Minichino and Rita Lakin get saucier (that's a euphemism, friends, but it's not my place to tell a lady's secrets!) (other than, if I were you, I'd stay out of Camille's way when she's behind the wheel because she has a deadly windshield) every year! Julie and I were lucky enough to do an event with them last week at Book Passage.

A few other highlights from my big week:

I made Steve Hockensmith cry!!

I went to a Pens barbecue (and I'm not telling whose undies are on the line!)

Me and Julie at Book Passage hawkin' them books we wrote

I went to the Ruby Room - oh yes I DID! And you better believe I plan to go back

Birthday Cookies - which my friend Roseann makes for me every year and which are more delicious than Heaven itself

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I Got a Craving

Y'all know I'm a chip gal, right? Mmmm, I've always got a bag of kettle chips open somewhere in the house. Crunchy, salty, yum.

But a woman cannot live on chips alone. Once in a while she has to venture out into the world and sample the cuisine out there, preferably in the company of good friends and a frosty IPA.

That's how I happened to stumble upon what I think are the perfect french fries.

It's a veritable fry tower, and you can find it at Astaria restaurant in San Mateo, where I recently found myself after - what else? - a book event at M is for Mystery. (Hi, Ed!)

So it's crispy fries that have been given a little extra time in the fryer, tossed with sauteed garlic and salt. And on top of that is a mountain of super-thin onion rings - so thin that batter-frying almost carmelizes them.

I'm not sure I'd go around kissing people after polishing off this awesome dish, but in practically every other respect it's perfect.

Jace, me, and Julie at Astaria not long ago

Cover Cookies

I think this is some sort of etiquette faux-pas - discussing one's own gift-giving skills - but I was so delighted with these cookies I sent the Canada branch of the Harlequin team** to celebrate REBIRTH's launch. Look close, there's little tiny pictures of my cover on every single cookie! I have no idea how they do that, but I think they're adorbs, to borrow my friend Martha's word.

** Nothing's too good for those crazy-creative people. They're the best.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Happy birthday, REBIRTH

You know what's a great way to celebrate a release day?

Reading with a friend, for one.

Dog isn't very enamored with the new book. Neither is Junior - she of the yellow manicure, above - but that may be because there are new issues of Teen Vogue and Wired competing for attention.

That's okay. I've taken it easy today, going out for tacos and enjoying a leisurely trip to the DMV (!) Plenty of time tomorrow to kick it all back into gear.

Thanks to everyone who wrote and called. You're the ones who make days like this special.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

SHAME: dig deep and write about it

At Thrillerfest, SuperAgent Barbara and I taught a workshop on Creating Emotional Depth. I made the point that the most powerful emotion is shame, a notion that took hold of me sometime last year and which I've been thinking about since. When an audience member asked me for clarification, I promised I would follow up here. (I am thinking of turning this into an article at some point so your comments are welcome.)

I've always been drawn to the theme of shame in my own writing. An earlier example is my short story, "Mortification;" a more recent example is the entire AFTERTIME series for Luna. I'm quite certain that I am not finished exploring shame in my fiction.

Shame is a human's self-limiting and self-correcting response to knowledge of wrongdoing or suspicion of inadequacy. There. I just tossed that out from the recesses; but let's see what the dictionary people say:

"A painful emotion caused by a strong sense of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness."

Yeah....I guess.

Neither my definition nor theirs takes me to the place I want to go here. Shame is crushing and nauseous and evasive. Shame makes you want to injure yourself and hug yourself at the same time. Shame is felt in the gut and in the most delicate synapses; it both bludgeons and sneers.

Shame is this: you knew it was wrong and you did it anyway.

And this: you know your desires and your hungers are not what NICE PEOPLE want, and yet you can't stop wanting them.

And this: you were born unworthy and none of the million attempts you have made to fix yourself in a thousand little ways has worked - they have sloughed off like so many raindrops or dandelion puffs and you are immutably, permanently as damaged and despicable as ever, but worse because -

- you have done something that has left you EXPOSED. I actually think this is where shame transmutes into mortification - that is to say, through action. The two words can be synonyms, but to me mortification has a more corporeal sense, it implies a physical manifestation of shame, which can be completely internal. Taken to its extreme mortification can include self-harm (as in the ritualistic abuse of the body practiced by flagellants) but in my fiction i have characters injure themselves in small ways, such as pinching skin in hidden places or digging fingernails into flesh. In moments of shame, transferring one's attention to pain can be an - perhaps the only - effective relief.

The fear of exposure is central to shame. Sometimes we fear that strangers see inside us. Sometimes we fear that those we love will learn the truth about us. Sometimes we can't escape God himself, His scrutiny, His crushing and eternal judgment. All of these are perfect for fiction, because humans - characters - will go to great lengths to avoid exposure. Like beetles on our backs, we writhe and twist; we'll commit acts of treachery and betrayal and violence to protect ourselves.

It might not be going to far to say that shame is at the core of many crimes. In fact, now that I think about it, it's a theme best suited to all dark genres like mystery and horror, because it can motivate a protagonist to act outside his own interests. (And a villain to act villainously, but that goes without saying.)

Feel free to add your own thoughts/examples in the comments, but recent books come to mind...CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER...Attica Locke's BLACK WATER RISING...both of Bryan Gruley's books...Megan Abbott's work...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Playing Nice at Conferences

I did a fair amount of schmoozing at Thrillerfest. Besides my workshop and panel, I volunteered at AgentFest (mad! absolutely a madhouse!) and hung out in the bar and went out to dinner and had lots of time to talk to other writers, many of whom are still aspiring. (Aspiring with everything they've got, which is why I love Thrillerfest - no dabblers here! Everyone's figurative sleeves were rolled up and they came to work, which was nice.)

And delightful. Really! Ninety-five percent delightful!

And...I had a few moments that made me think I should share some hard-acquired wisdom on What To Do when one finds oneself unexpectedly in the company of a mix of publishing people. Too often - perhaps out of nervousness - we all fall back on habits that don't really serve us all that well. We might drink too much, monopolize the conversation, ignore less-important people in an effort to gain the attention of the most important or famous person in the group (actually, I personally would NEVER do that one because I find it just so entirely rude), get nervous and don't speak at all, vent our frustration or complaints about the industry, and eat all the salty sesame bits out of the bar mix. (Okay, that last one was me. Yep. Guilty.)

There's something I would like to share with you. I have a little experience now, and I know a few people, some of them Kind of Big Deals. And I want to share with you what impresses them, because it impresses me too, and we, well, we talk about it. Now, you probably don't care what I think - after all, I can't get you any closer to your book deal. But you might care what that nice person I was with thinks, if you knew she was an agent or editor, which not all of you did.

(That is a DIRECT message to the awful woman who invited herself to sit at my table and then promptly insulted my friend, a very well known and revered literary agent. You know what you did. So do all my friends, 'cause I told them. Sorry, that's what happens when you don't play nice.)

What's impressive? It's simple, really: show a little kindness. Ask the person next to you what he's working on. Ask her how she's enjoying the conference. Offer to get someone a cup of coffee, as long as you're up. Let the person who's obviously having some mobility issues take your place in line. Share a kind word with the author who's alone at the signing table. Smile at the gal fixing her lipstick next to you in the bathroom. Introduce a stranger to your crowd, if you're lucky enough to have one - remember, there was a time when *you* were the newbie.

It's funny, little nag-y posts like this one always pop up before RWA every year, but I didn't see too many geared toward Thrillerfest-attenders. Maybe tuck this away for next year. And if you need a little more guidance, check out this great NYT article about how NOT to be the "death of the party."

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

ARC winners! - - and, I *still* heart NY

Hey y'all - - thanks to everyone who voted on my AFTERTIME covers. I think HORIZON came out as the favorite, but I appreciate *all* the positive feedback and will be sure to pass it along to the amazing art team.

The winners of the advance review copies, chosen by random number site, are JOSH P, NoraA, and Vickie. Would you guys please email me at with your snail addresses so I can put a signed copy of REBIRTH in the mail to you? It may be next week before I get them sent because I'm out of town at....

Thrillerfest! Landed early enough today to enjoy a long stroll around NYC. I just can't get enough of this city. Besides my curious yet heartfelt love of the JFKAirTrain...

one of the best ways i know to spend five bucks

I find this view of Queens (sorry, couldn't capture the Queensboro bridge thru the chain link...ahem) to be quite intoxicating...

not exactly in all the tourist brochures, surprisingly

and the view from my hotel is quite ritzy, considering it's me and all. (Seriously, there was this one time...oh, never mind. Suffice it to say I would have slept with a gun under my pillow. If I'd a had a gun. Or a pillow.)

And you'll be happy to know that I found a more-than-decent burger tonight so I got the red meat thing covered.

OK, tomorrow my super-agent Barbara and I are teaching "Creating Emotional Depth" at 11:00 during CraftFest. And my brother arrives too! Come find us in the bar? I just know you're gonna love us. :)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

WIN REBIRTH!!!!! Plus new cover & new trailer!

You guys!!! I'm jumping out of my skin I'm so damn excited about the new stuff Harlequin just revealed for my AFTERTIME series. And they just sent me some advance copies of REBIRTH, which I'd love to share with you. So how about this - if you'd like to win one, watch the trailer on YouTube and vote in the comments - which is your favorite cover? AFTERTIME, REBIRTH, or HORIZON? I love them all - that art department is chock full o' geniuses, in my opinion.

I'll check the comments in a couple of days and randomly choose three people to receive copies of REBIRTH. (I'll be in touch with you to find out your mailing address.)

P.S. it would be great if you could help me spread the word. My Twitter and FB buttons are at right - and since I'm going to be dismantling my personal page later this summer I'd love it if you'd switch to the fan page here.

Okay, without any further ado - MY NEW TRAILER!!!!!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

SCANDAL tour report!

So as you may know, I've been wandering all over the southwest (um, I guess Colorado isn't exactly southwest, and maybe the Texans would bridle at the term too, but you know what I mean) on a book tour for my new book, A BAD DAY FOR SCANDAL (third in the Stella Hardesty mystery series). My dear friend and travel companion Juliet Blackwell came along with me to promote her new book, HEXES AND HEMLINES.

Did we have our usual raucous time? You be the judge...

We started the week in Crested Butte, CO at the Crested Butte Writers Conference run by an amazing group of volunteers (thanks Theresa and Barbara!) Also on the faculty was Robin Owens, a fellow Luna author. (Luna is the publisher of my AFTERTIME series.) She and Juliet and I shared a condo, and there was lots of late night laughter and conversation. During the days, we hung out with lots of great aspiring writers as well as agents Stephen Barr from Writers House, Helen Breitwieser from Cornerstone, and Marisa Corvisiero, and editors Holly Blanck (St. Martins) and Mike Braff (Del Rey Spectra). And finally, we met Kaki Warner, who writes fiction set all over Texas and New Mexico and Colorado, and instantly fell for her. She's our kind of woman!

Agent Stephen Barr and editor Mike Braff
organizers Theresa Rizzo and Barbara Crawford
Our roomie, and my fellow Luna author, Robin Owens
Me and Stephen Barr and...a friend
The view from our condo
Julie working - we worked nearly every day! Sometimes even without cocktails!
the whole gang in a moment of leisure between events

I have rarely laughed so hard in my life. I'm not sure how you take all these random people and throw them together and get anything but chaos as a result, but they are all awesome and I hope that I get to stay in touch with all of them.

Last Monday we flew to Houston, where we spent a couple days with McKenna Jordan who is the incredibly gracious owner of MurderByTheBook, and her mom Brenda. We were very excited to find that we were the very first guests in the new guestroom! Jordan Hospitality features food, a full bar and great guests - and a kick-ass game of Cranium.

McKenna and me at MurderByTheBook bookstore
Matt and his partner John, who works at the bookstore; Matt's a high school history teacher in Houston
Brenda, McKenna's awesome mom (and skilled bartender!)
Juliet in a funky little shop with a floating crystal ball
Playing Cranium with John and McKenna, who kicked our butts

Next on the tour was BookPeople in Austin, where Juliet and I are very lucky to have a supporter in Scott Montgomery. Scott has been a wonderful hand-seller for our series, and he moderated a great discussion in the store before taking us out for what has got to be the best barbecue in the universe. I would eat there every day of my life if they let me. We also had a fun comrade-in-barbecue, Juliet's cousin Pat, who entertained us with stories of Blackwell family lore.

Me and Juliet at the register of the large and wonderful BookPeople store
the BEST barbecue in the world - from Ruby's - and we drank Shiner Boch too!
Me and Juliet checking out the menu, but honestly, was there any doubt our choice would be "a little of everything?"
The gang in front of Ruby's: Juliet's cousin Pat, Juliet, Scott Montgomery, and mystery fan Ed

After a quick stop in Tucson to give a workshop at Clues Unlimited bookstore on writing compelling Sex & Passion scenes (no pictures from that one!!!) we arrived at our last stop: the Poisoned Pen Bookstore's annual reader and writer conference. This took place in the beautiful Biltmore hotel, which I adore. The 100-plus degree weather barely slowed us down as we conducted workshops for aspiring writers and hob-nobbed with Phoenix's great mystery community, spearheaded as always by Barbara Peters and her awesome staff. I'm going to need to post the pictures from that later because I'm just about to fall asleep on the keyboard.

Finally, weary beyond belief, we headed home today. If you'd like a glimpse into the final (ignominious) hours of our trip, check here :)