Monday, September 24, 2012

My New Wheels

I got my first car in 1984, while I was in college. It was an eight year old Honda Civic, and my Dad co-signed the loan with me. My payments were around a hundred bucks and I paid them out of my waitress tips. 

I loved that car. I had a Foreigner tape that I played over and over, and I drove around with the windows down so that the whole world could enjoy "Cold as Ice" with me.

These are the cars I've had since then:
1988 Red Subaru Justy
1992 Silver Jeep Cherokee
1995 Green Subaru Legacy
1997 Green Toyota Sienna minivan, which the kids are still driving
2004 Gold Volvo station wagon

Over the years my cars got bigger and sturdier, until driving that Volvo felt like driving a large chunk of asphalt around. Now I live in the city and I'm back in a tiny car. I love it. I feel like it could spring up onto the sidewalk to avoid a police chase if necessary. I'm pretty sure my son could bench press it.

 The Obama sticker's on its way; meanwhile I'm making do with this:

I found a local car wash. I love car washes - wielding the wand and trying to time the soap and rinse exactly to your tokens. Julie and I took a writing break to check it out. Writing breaks on beautiful autumn afternoons - that's got to be in the top five reasons why we have the best job in the world.

Friday, September 21, 2012

School Library Journal Review - and Bay Book Co.

Pleased to report that School Library Journal had nice things to say about HANGING BY A THREAD!

LITTLEFIELD, Sophie. Hanging by a Thread. 270p. CIP. Delacorte. 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-385-74104-0; PLB $19.99. ISBN 978-0-375-98982-7; ebook $10.99. ISBN 978-0-375-98356-6. LC 2011047773.
Gr 9 Up–Clare Knight recently moved back to Winston, California. She inherited more than a home from her family; she also inherited an affinity for sewing and design as well something darker. A seamstress, she redesigns vintage clothing, and with one touch of a garment, she can see the life of the person who wore it. As she prepares for her junior year in high school, Rachel, an old friend, introduces her to the popular crowd, and Clare finds herself invited to one wild beach party after another. However, behind the carefree life in this seaside town lies a terrible truth; two children have been murdered in as many years and on the same date. Parents fear it will happen again. With Clare’s gift comes great responsibility, and the teen finds herself caught up in the mystery of these tragic deaths. The author keeps readers hanging on to each page with a fast-moving plot, but sacrifices fluidity in the process. However, most teens will not mind at all. Littlefield includes just the right amount of conflict, mystery, fashion, teenage mischief, and hot guys to keep readers entertained, and they’ll enjoy the ending that ties together all the loose threads.–Mindy Whipple, West Jordan Library, UT

I marked the occasion by taking a drive out to Half Moon Bay to sign books at Bay Book Company. You really can't beat a September afternoon along the Northern California coast - especially if you drag along an amusing friend and have a leisurely lunch after.

Juliet (Blackwell) and I were intrigued to discover that Bay Book Co. has an astonishing stock of cigars secreted away in their own little room. We briefly considered buying a couple to bring to Bouchercon, but decided we've already got enough bad habits.

Manager Jeff Broyles and assistant manager Sue Pope made us feel right at home... did the bookstore cat. She used to be feral, apparently - now she looks right at home in her new setting!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Wouldn't it be so cool if someone always gave us what we wanted?

"Wouldn't it be so cool if someone always gave us what we wanted?" A friend emailed that to me the other day. This particular friend has been a role model for me ever since I met her five years ago. She's been through a lot of life-changing challenges and emerged with grace and magnificent competence, and managed to hang onto optimism and generosity in the bargain.

The answer to the question, of course, is that it would not be cool at all. It would be a disaster. It's only in the NOT getting what we want - in getting, quite frankly, the inconvenient and painful opposite - that we grow. I could give you a thousand examples, but you have your own, of course. 

(My daughter - who is 17 - said to me the other day, with a dramatic sigh - "I can't stand to be around people who've never experienced life-changing hardship." Giggle.)

Anyway, the thing is, it is extremely cool if someone *occasionally* gives you exactly what you wanted. And that happened to me yesterday.

This same wise friend of mine saw me drooling over this ring on facebook, and she called them up and had it sent. 

Yes: it is made of tiny golden dinosaur claws. And I ADORE it. You'll see it at Bouchercon. (By the way, check out VeraMeat for more incredible jewelry. It's not for everyone, but it might be for you.)

Here's the funny thing. This past year, three of my best friends have given me rings - in the same year that I took off forever the ring that tied me to my past. I wear them all with such gratitude.

I'll close with a final gift sent from this same wise friend:

Monday, September 17, 2012

LitQuake - Dangerous Dolls...& Me :)

Anyone coming to Litquake? If so, I hope you'll come see me and my friend Michelle Gagnon and a whole lot of awesome people I don't know yet. I mean, look at this lineup, people - I can hardly wait!

Michelle's got some new irons in the fire, by the way, including her new release DON'T TURN AROUND. I'm very excited that she's doing YA these days, and she's getting some nice attention for it.  You can find out more over on her site.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Rather than post these one at a time over on Facebook I thought I'd share them here in one post. As always, thank you to everyone who takes the time to read and review my work, no matter what conclusions you reach. A vibrant and honest reviewing community is so important to all of us - authors and readers alike.

"A really good book and a welcome addition to a sorely underrepresented thriller market in YA." - Bite My Books

"A YA book that has it all...a perfect standalone story." - Paulette's Papers

"A great read with a wonderful eccentric heroine." - Bewitched Bookworms

"The writing is beautifully expressive." - Mel's Random Reviews

"A well-written, cleanly plotted tale of the supernatural...I can't recommend this author highly enough." - Owlcat Mountain

"A very fun read and an enticing light mystery." - Popcorn Reads
"Teens will love this spooky mystery...a fresh and fascinating read!" - Mrs. Nelson's Book Fair

Friday, September 14, 2012

Wedding Cake for Breakfast

I haven't talked about this yet, but I think it might be time. Earlier this year, I contributed an essay to a very special anthology called WEDDING CAKE FOR BREAKFAST: ESSAYS ON THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRST YEAR OF MARRIAGE.

This was a particularly poignant writing experience for me, because my own marriage was ending as I wrote my contribution. But as is so often the case, the writing provided answers to questions I didn't know needed asking and balm for hurts I wasn't aware were there. Writing, as we so often remind each other, is the best therapy in the world.

I was married for a long time to a good man, and revisiting that first year - when everything was fresh and everything was possible - was a difficult experience, but also a joyful one.

The anthology is available in all the usual spots, and you can learn more about it here. The essays are pretty terrific, ranging from funny to bittersweet, and the book has been received very well. The other contributors include a woman who married a boy I went to elementary school with - talk about a small world!

Party at My House

Yesterday I entertained for the first time in my new home. But like any freshly-moved person, I needed a few supplies first. So I headed to Ikea. Here's my haul, for a hundred bucks.

I'm going to confess something now. I thought about keeping it to myself, but my comments and emails lately have been full of encouragement from women who, like myself, have found themselves on their own after many years of living with partners. They've shared their tough moments but also their marvelous strength and the happy discoveries once they started learning to stand on their own two feet.

So here's the moment I'll share. I was wandering around Ikea with my shopping cart, dazzled by all those amazing displays, when I started noticing that all the other shoppers were adorable young couples and little families with babies. And I suddenly remembered the time, twenty-five years ago, when I was part of a young and optimistic couple visiting Ikea for the first time, stretching our budget to buy a bookshelf and a set of canisters. (I had those canisters for many years - used them to store buttons and elastic and such.)

And I stopped my shopping cart cold and I felt all kinds of sad. Wistful and scared and loss-ful. And I even indulged in a rare moment of poor-me, because between these book-end Ikea trips were a number of outings to very high end furniture stores where I spent more than my current rent on an end table. (!) I'm not proud of that, but this is a confession so I am telling all.

But mostly I just felt...all alone. 

Well, here's my happy outcome from yesterday. When I got home, I put on an episode of Luther (IDRIS! Ohhhh, Idris, you know you want me, and hands off, Peeler, I saw him first) and got out my power drill with the phillips-head bit (God, I love that thing!) and assembled my new folding table. Which made me feel incredibly competent, so thank you, Ikea.

Then my friends came over. And I don't think we stopped laughing the whole time. (Look how cute my table is! Most of the time, it's going to be a sewing table and/or a printer table for the kids' room.)

 So yeah, my pals brought me 16-year Lagavulin. Hell's bells - *someone* must think I'm awesome! Oh, and that's a scotch rock, which they also brought me - you freeze it and then use it to chill your scotch just a tiny bit because watering down single malt with ice is a SIN.

Me and my pal Mysti Berry. (who, by the way, you can meet at Bouchercon if you are going, and you should, because she's smart as a whip, funny, and I'm very lucky she's my friend.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

New Book...New Site

Today marks the release of my new young adult thriller, HANGING BY A THREAD. You can read about the book here, but I thought it would be fun to share the dedication and acknowledgements, below.

You may also have noticed that my blog and web site have a whole new look today. That comes courtesy of my long-time web designer, Maddee James of  I am so delighted with the design Maddee has created! I truly think there is no more gifted designer in the business - and those of us who are Maddee's clients also know that she and her team (including friend Jen Forbus) are beyond professional.

(For a fun distraction, pour yourself a cup of coffee and check out some of the sites Maddee's created here.)


For Barbara Poelle
I couldn’t do it without you – and even if I could, it wouldn’t be any fun


With many thanks to my editor, Krista Vitola, for turning a lump of ideas into a story, and then polishing it to a shine. Thank you, dear family, for carrying on splendidly through one crisis after another so that I could finish my work. My friends: you’re everything to me, never more than this last year.

And thank you to Maddee James, web maven and so much more - I can never appreciate you enough.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Settling In

So you guys know I recently moved, right? And I was a bit, well....nervous. Scared, actually. Like a middle-aged little baby rabbit. Plus, the place needed some work, and while I was happy to dive in - hard work doesn't generally daunt me - early results were not encouraging.

First off, the bedrooms were painted this horrible soul-destroying shade of gray-green that made my paint look dreadful in contrast when I started painting. I mean, look at this:

Next, my new desk arrived. Yay!  ....except, it looked like this (and each piece weighed about a million pounds):

...and then, I was taking out the shelf paper and scraping wallpaper and there came a moment when I just sat on the floor and cried. Yes, I thought the tired, sad karma was going to eat me alive.

But then, a series of lovely things happened. First, once I covered up that green, my new sparkly paint looked great. Then, my friends arrived with a variety of blessings. Some babysat me, some sent really touching emails, some called to check up on me and some took me out for fried food and beer, and one of them came back from a month-long debauch to France with a beautiful soft gray lacy shawl to bring me inspiration. Oh, and my dad and his wife, and my sister and brother, always let me cry and cry and never got tired of me. Thank God.

Here is what Gigi Pandian brought me, from a recent visit to India. I knew when I put him up on the window ledge over the sink that it was time to welcome good luck into my life and turn my back on the fear.

So I started a new project - turning this old coat closet into my new office.

 First off was painting the space the most beautiful color in the world. This gorgeous gray blue is "Blue Fox" from Behr and I highly recommend everyone run out and buy a can and paint something, because it will make you feel contemplative and deep and calm.

Next, I bought me some fancy shelves from the Container Store. They're easy to install, so after a few minutes you feel like you have incredible carpentry skills and could probably build a house if you wanted to.

I unpacked all my office junk...

And before long, I was right at home. I had to get Tommy, handyman extraordinaire, to help me move that desk but I did everything else myself! 

Maybe here is a good time to note that I LOVE community laundry. Seriously, I am not seeing the downside. I don't have to ever dust the washer and dryer or scrub the detergent dust off the floor, or deep clean the lint traps, and we have these big-ass commercial machines here in my building that you can stuff like your whole wardrobe in. Also, now that Oakland's gone almost entirely to the credit card parking meters, what am I going to do with all those quarters anyway?

(Another day, I am going to talk about a certain comment a certain person made to me recently, about how everyone loses after a divorce. Seriously? I think maybe that person should have spent the last twenty years being in charge of keeping the laundry room clean.)

Okay, before I sign out, I have to brag just a tiny bit. Yesterday I went down to the Oakland farmer's market (I'll try to post some pix next time I go) and they had the loveliest blueberries, so fresh they still had the dew on them. So I made this pie. And trust me, friends, if you ever come over for pie at my house, you will NOT get a so-called crust from a box! This pie kicked ass - I should know, I had the leftovers for breakfast.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Kids Are All Right

I love teenagers! They're so headstrong and hellbent, and if you could bottle that spirit, you could run the country on it. Don't get me wrong, I spend a fair amount of energy fretting over and attempting to corral my own, but in the end, they seem to figure it out. Their collective strategy seems to involve learning by making lots of mistakes, which I heartily endorse.

After a week full of challenges, I think I need to take a page out of the kids' book. (These aren't all mine but I'd be honored if they were.) Starting now, I'm going to try behaving a little more like I'm 19 and a little less like I'm 49.  We'll see where that gets me. :)

They look just right in pink hair and a thrift store dress

They take the time to daydream

They're resilient - and then some