Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lovely gifties!

A while back I posted about some lovely gifties that had come my way (a copper zombie cookie cutter and a zombie coffee mug), and mused about what I might have done to deserve such bounty. Well, it was another week like that. Not sure what I did to merit such largesse, but yesterday I received a box in the mail from Lesa Holstein, reader, reviewer, and librarian extraordinaire. And of course it contained these:

...along with a note suggesting that a lady's bondage gear collection would not be complete without same. I defer to Lesa's wisdom on the matter. I also have to show you the handmade card she sent - Jen Forbus would love this!

Last week, as temperatures in CA soared and we had a few dizzying Springlike days, the sort that result in rash behavior, I received a package from my dear sister-in-law Lisa. Lisa is one of those over-accomplished types who can run a company with a tiny fraction of her brain and make stuff like this in her spare time. Check out the stitchwork on the cuffs!

Right after our spring weather bacchanalia, temperatures plummeted again. My writing room is a converted garage and it is COLD. So I'm sitting here wearing my beautiful new gloves as I wait for the coffee to be done.

Monday, February 27, 2012

YOUR NEXT BOOK

This one comes courtesy of my friend Rachael Herron.

In 1902 Miss Cora Strayer opens her own detective agency, advertising it with this irresistible line: "When in need of legal or confidential advice, why not confer with one of your own sex?" Irresistible hook, right? Even better, self-described nerd Paul Reda has done quite a bit of research already. A collaboration, perhaps?

Jackie Winspear has a similar thing going in her Maisie Dobbs series, but I think there's room in this world for a variety of feisty lady detectives, especially those who still make time for the gentlemen despite advancing age (cough-cough stella hardesty cough-cough).

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

GUNS AND ROSES


A Murder She Writes Anthology
featuring "A Punishing Night" (excerpt below)
Murder She Writes Press
February 20, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-0615604794

Murder She Writes presents a one-of-a-kind romantic suspense anthology with ten all-new, never-before-published short stories and novellas that promise thrills, chills, romance, intrigue, passion, danger, murder...and love. Penned by New York Times and award winning authors, some stories in this exclusive collection will make you laugh out loud while others will force you to sleep with the lights on.

Buy it at Amazon
Buy it at Barnes & Noble

Stories include:

“Nightfall” by Laura Griffin
“Dead Flowers” by Lori Armstrong
“Above Reproach” by Allison Brennan
“The Housewife Assassin’s Bloody Valentine” by Josie Brown
“Bobbie Faye’s Whacked Out, No Good, Really Sucky, Hot Mess of a Wedding” by Toni McGee Causey
“Blood and Roses” by Sylvia Day
“King of Hearts,” a Rough Riders short story by Lorelei James
“A Punishing Night” by Sophie Littlefield
“Pick Your Poison” A Bullet Catcher Novella, by Roxanne St. Claire
“Rebel Rose” by Karin Tabke

- - - - - -
Excerpt from "A Punishing Night" by Sophie Littlefield

Through the wide double doors that opened onto the dormitory lounge, Joe could see the girls, at least a dozen. Most were still wearing what they slept in, which ranged from baggy T-shirts and boxer shorts to thin camisoles which barely covered their breasts. They lay about the sofas and chairs of the dorm’s lounge like women in an Ingres tableau.

Noticing Joe, a girl got to her bare feet and padded over to the door. Her thin tank top read “Boys Suck”. Her eyes were a beautiful, clear green, the effect ruined by smudged black rims. It looked as though she’d lined them with a magic marker and a shaking hand.

“Are you in charge?” The girl demanded.

“I’m Detective Bashir. I’m working with Officer Collier. And you are?”

“Kaylanna Pace. We just want to know if we can like take a shower or something. Or if we have to be stuck in here, you could maybe get some coffee sent up?”

She was clearly the leader, the queen bee. She looked into his eyes with a directness that Joe still found surprising in people her age; his own niece and nephew, the second generation born in California, retained a trace of the bashful gaze cultivated by Pakistani-American parents in their children. Madiha and Taj looked adults in the chin.

“I’ll see if I can do something about refreshments,” Joe said.

“But what if we have to pee?” a girl called from inside the room.

That was a bigger problem, indeed.

In the bathroom down the hall, a dead man waited for Joe.

###

Monday, February 20, 2012

YOUR NEXT BOOK

Following up on last week's introduction of my new blog feature, a can't-miss plot free for the taking, get a load of *this*:

Between the late 40s and 1961, mentally retarded children institutionalized at the Fernand State School in Massachusetts were exposed to radiation, having been enticed into the experiment with extra milk and membership in a "science club." This was done in the interest of scientific inquiry, and it was federally sponsored, an effort to determine the effects of radiation on the body in anticipation of nuclear war with the Soviet Union.

Anyone want to take a stab at that? I'm thinking thriller, probably with a contemporary element.

(the source of this information is a fascinating book by Todd Tucker called THE GREAT STARVATION EXPERIMENT, which I heartily recommend.)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

I Made Paul Goat Allen Cry

Today I received what is quite possibly the review of a lifetime.

If you'd told me a few years ago that Paul Goat Allen - longtime reviewer for The Chicago Tribune, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, BookPage, and Barnes & Noble - would ever deign to even *read* one of my books, I would never have believed it. But today, he wrote this:

Bottom line: The Aftertime trilogy is Littlefield’s magnum opus – just a timeless, towering work of apocalyptic fiction. And although this saga is a “must read” for fans of apocalyptic fiction and zombie fiction, I believe it transcends genre fiction and would appeal to anyone who reads fiction. This trio of novels gets my highest possible level of recommendation.

(See below for the rest of the review.)

Since I read those words, I've been sitting in my chair practically immobilized with gratitude, pride, and pinch-me-this-can't-be-true astonishment. I am having trouble processing this feeling. It's more than signing a contract, more than receiving a royalty check, more than seeing one's name in print for the first time. I don't say this often because it sounds - well, presumptuous. But I really do hope to write books that mean something, that alter, if only in a very small way, the experience of another person on this earth. That means more to me than any award, list, or honor I'll ever attain.

So...a big, huge thank you to Paul and to everyone who takes the time to let an author know when a book touches them. I am grateful to every reader and reviewer who takes the time to read and respond to my work. For us authors, it's the greatest gift.

- - - - -


“A Monumental Post-Apocalyptic Work” – Littlefield Pens Her Magnum Opus With the Aftertime Trilogy
by paulgoatallen

Although I’ve read a ton of genre fiction during my lifetime, one of my favorite categories is – and always will be – apocalyptic fiction. I’ve even gone so far as to compile an extensive list of all of the noteworthy apocalyptic fiction releases dating back to Mary Shelley’s The Last Man (1826) and am currently in the process of trying to read them all. Many of my all-time favorite reads are apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic novels – A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr. (1960), Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle (1977), The Road by Cormac McCarthy (2006), Lamentation by Ken Scholes (2009), The Passage by Justin Cronin (2010), etc.

But I’m here to tell you that Sophie Littlefield’s Aftertime trilogy (Aftertime, Rebirth and the recently released Horizon) may be one of the best post-apocalyptic sagas ever written. Initially set in the Sierra Foothills of California where a genetically modified plant inadvertently released into the world has turned much of humanity into flesh-eating Beaters, the Aftertime trilogy is simply a monumental post-apocalyptic work, a trio of novels that has gone a long way in redefining the genre. Never before has such a powerfully moving post-apocalyptic series featured such a realistic, authentic – and downright unforgettable – female lead.

The majority of post-apocalyptic fiction over the decades has characterized women as helpless, hopeless liabilities. Victims in high heels or objects to be coveted because of their ability to further the species. But – thankfully – the times, they are a-changin’. Littlefield’s iconic protagonist, Cass Dollar, is indeed a woman of the 21st century. She is a fighter, a survivor. She’s smart, courageous, and determined. She is a mother, a lover, an unlikely hero at the end of the world.

But she isn’t some badass warrioress – she is a deeply flawed everywoman who managed a convenience store before the world ended. An alcoholic who had her daughter Ruthie taken away by social workers, Cass wants nothing more than to be a good mother to her daughter… all she has to do is survive long enough to find a place where they can live free of the threat of Beaters, or murderous bandits, or starvation, or hypothermia…

Cass Dollar is a heroic character indeed but Littlefield took the idea of the self-empowered female at world’s end even further: the entire trilogy is replete with tough and tenacious female characters: like Sammi, a 14-year old girl who has lost her father to divorce and has seen her mother killed in front of her.

The message here? Women are just as strong and smart and courageous as any man. Sexual gender has absolutely nothing to do with one’s ability – or will – to survive.

But it’s so much more than female empowerment – while Littlefield has penned this sprawling, epic, end-of-the-world storyline, the ultimate message, I think, is universal and surprisingly intimate. It’s about self-forgiveness. So many of the characters in this trilogy are filled with self-hate and guilt for the mistakes that they’ve made in the past, that they’re missing out on the fleeting beauty and potential for love all around them – even if it is at world’s end! One sequence in particular struck me:

“Cass drank in the sun and dug her fingers into the earth and breathed the good air and allowed herself to wonder if maybe she was more than the sum of her addiction and her sobriety, more than just Ruthie’s mother, if maybe she’d done her penance and suffered enough and deserved something only for herself. Even with the scars and the regrets, some of her spirit remained, and some of it was good, and some of it was worthy…”

I absolutely loved Horizon – it was such a fitting way to end this trilogy – and I’m not embarrassed to admit that I had tears rolling down my face as I read the last few chapters. And while the conclusion certainly wasn’t a happily-ever-after ending, Littlefield stayed true to the trilogy’s overarching theme: there is happiness and hope out there; you just have to work for it. The following excerpt, I believe, not only sums up this trilogy perfectly but also makes a great philosophy for living one’s life:

“She did not yet know the limits of her strength, but she was ready to be tested, and tested again. She would be tempted and discouraged and broken, but she would come back each time, into this world that had been bequeathed to them, into the dangers that threatened them and the joys that waited, buried but not impossible, for them to unearth and cherish.”

Bottom line: The Aftertime trilogy is Littlefield’s magnum opus – just a timeless, towering work of apocalyptic fiction. And although this saga is a “must read” for fans of apocalyptic fiction and zombie fiction, I believe it transcends genre fiction and would appeal to anyone who reads fiction. This trio of novels gets my highest possible level of recommendation.

"Fixing" Minds That Aren't Broke

The New York Times has, lately, been exploring attention and focus issues from a variety of angles. This got my attention, because I've long been convinced that our society has it wrong when it attempts to "cure" "deficit" children. (Sorry about those quotes, but I needed both pairs to get across my dubiousness about both judgments.)


I've never read deeply on the matter. This reluctance came out of fear, because as one of my own children appeared to more and more consistently fit into the diagnosis of attention deficit, I also realized that all the symptoms applied to me as well - certainly in my scattershot childhood, if less so now. (Few would argue that I am unsuccessful at focusing now. More on that some other time.) I did not want to dig deeply into the matter because I was, to be blunt, afraid "they" would finally convince me to try to change both my child and myself.

(They did, actually. I tried to foist medication on my child several times. Luckily, he had the fortitude to resist. I feel such grief when I consider all the times I tried to make him think he was *wrong* - that there was something fundamentally wrong with him. If I could un-drag him to those professionals, if I could take back the judgement words - well, past is past, as a character in my current novel often says.)

If you're curious about the subject, or if you have a gloriously distracted person in your life, you might find some gentle commentary here. No numbers, no statistics, just some musing and gorgeous illustrations. (The one with the child looking out the window will be familiar to most of us - who *hasn't* allowed her mind to wander elsewhere during a boring lecture? But the butterfly wing one resonated with me as a terrifying consequence of our focus-mad world: we attack what is most gorgeous and creative about our own children.)

If you want a more scientific article, try this one - an early supporter of Ritalin and its ilk recants, convincingly.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My kid's high school english teacher kicks your kid's teacher's ass!

Why is Mrs. D so awesome? Because she has all her junior students do this amazing project called the I-Search where they dig deep into a question of profound relevance to them - and then do the research to answer their own question. Mrs. D. reads scads of 25-page papers, encourages the kids to get out and find experts who can help them come to their own conclusions, and doesn't judge them for their feelings and attitudes. She goes WAY above and beyond the call of duty, and I salute her for that.

Topics are as varied as faith journeys to "Why do I want a tattoo?" to career choices.

A couple of the kids wanted to look into writing as a career - whether it was a viable choice given the tremendous pressures to choose a more auspicious career or field of study. You can imagine my answer - I told the girls they might as well follow their passion now, rather than waiting several decades to begin writing after earning a degree in a field they loathe, just because they wanted job security. (Ahem.)

Here's me and aspiring author H., after a lovely chat outdoors in the rain. C., the other teen author I talked to, wrote 37,000 words during NaNo this year. These girls are fantastic.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Free for the Taking: YOUR NEXT BOOK

It occurred to me today as I was out walking that I have far too many incredible book ideas to ever write in one lifetime. So I decided that a new blog feature is going to be me giving away stunning, can't-miss book ideas for lucky authors out there to snap up and turn into bestsellers. Could the next one be you?

(As usual, I'm far better at hook and atmosphere than at actual, uh, PLOT...but maybe my brother will weigh in with a little help there. Between the two of us we'll set you up for surefire literary success!)

Okay so to start things off:

In 1945, as the war was winding down, the American Civilian Public Service sent out a bulletin recruiting what they called "sea-going cowboys," whose job it was to assist the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration in taking livestock to Europe by the shipload, so starving populations could restart their farming and animal husbandry efforts. The agency offered to pay $150 per trip - and because of a shortage of volunteers, they accepted "cowboys" with very little experience.

I realize that this probably sounds like it could be comedic, but I was thinking a stowaway romance might be cool. You know, like the old girl-passing-as-a-young-soldier plot? - so I'm calling this one a romance. Thoughts?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Pens lunch

My friends came over for lunch yesterday and I was reminded, as always, how important it is to have like-minded strivers around you when you dig into this business. To all of you who are pursuing publication in any form - remember that making a million facebook friends and accruing thousands of twitter followers is no substitute, in the end, for gathering with people who LOVE THE WRITTEN WORD and are committed to becoming better wielders and crafters of same.

Juliet, Rachael and Nicole couldn't make it. From L-R, top row first: Adrienne, Me, Lisa, Gigi, L.G.C., Martha

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

My Day Off

I took a day off last week. Almost every time I do that, I wonder why I don't do it more often. This time was no exception. It started out simply enough - I went downtown with a friend to see about getting a rush job on a passport. I'd set aside the entire morning - I figured the passport office would be like the DMV but with tighter security - and was pleasantly surprised when we were in and out in ten minutes.

Instead of coming back on BART right away, we wandered over to Chinatown. Like many other East Bay moms, I've been there dozens of times; there are few better entertainments than giving your kids a fist full of singles and letting them shop their hearts out among all the exotic fare on display.

This time, though, my friend promised me something unexpected. We wound our way down a side street to a storefront wedged modestly between other larger, flashier ones. Inside, past the usual grocery shelves laden with canisters of herbs and tea and legumes and freeze-dried mysteries, out the back, into a hall that seemed to connect one block with the next, lined with tiny offices (you could get your taxes done, for instance, in a windowless office) and redolent with a smell that I tried hard to convince myself wasn't unpleasant, only unfamiliar.

And then this:



Yes, that is a cage full of birds. Chickens on the top, and a variety of doves or pigeons or what have you in the rows below. All very much alive. There was a little window, like at an ice cream stand, where women were lined up to buy their birds. I regret than I didn't understand any of the conversation, but the way it appeared to work is that you tell the woman behind the counter (very nice middle-aged woman dressed conservatively in a sweater and slacks, her hair done and her makeup in place) which bird you want, she gets it out of the cage, unceremoniously stuffs it first into a plastic Safeway bag (yes! it fits, even a large chicken - they are, mysteriously, compactable for a practiced hand, even when resisting and squawking) and then into a *paper* Safeway bag. The top of the bag is folded down and you are handed your parcel. I'm not sure what the birds cost - I was so fascinated I kind of forgot to note the details. But you can have a very, VERY fresh chicken dinner if you are so inclined.

We also visited the barber across the street and my friend got a haircut. Because...why not? I sometimes forget how much life is happening all around me, when I'm sitting in my suburban home office. I need to get out there and live it a little more often.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Cover Reveal: HANGING BY A THREAD

I'm *so* excited to show this to you guys - the cover for my new young adult standalone novel, HANGING BY A THREAD, which will be coming out this September.



I'll have an excerpt up on my web site soon, but for now, here's what Stacey Jay, author of JULIET IMMORTAL, has to say about the book:

“Dark secrets, a dangerous romance, and a chilling murder mystery made HANGING BY A THREAD a California horror story I won’t soon forget.”

And here's a quick story summary:

Summer is the best part of the year in Winston, California, and the Fourth of July is the highlight of the season. But the perfect town Clare remembers has changed, and everyone is praying that this summer will be different from the last two—that this year’s Fourth of July festival won’t see one of their own vanish without a trace, leaving no leads and no suspects. The media are in a frenzy predicting a third disappearance, but the town depends on tourist dollars, so the residents of Winston are trying desperately to pretend nothing’s wrong.

And they’re not the only ones hiding something.

Clare, a seamstress who redesigns vintage clothing, has been blessed—or perhaps cursed—with a gift: she can see people’s pasts when she touches their clothes. When she stumbles across a denim jacket that once belonged to Amanda Stavros, last year’s Fourth of July victim, Clare sees her perfect town begin to come apart at the seams.

In a town where appearance means everything, how deep beneath the surface will Clare dig to uncover a murderer?