Friday, March 29, 2013

How About Them A's?

Last night our Oakland boys took out the A's 7-3 in the pre-season :) Not bad for a start to the summer. Yes, summer...April's only a couple days away and I got my sandals out of the closet!

cheap-seats bonus: view of the bridge from AT&T park

great turnout!

me and my boy. it was kinda cold but we didn't care

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

AFTERTIME Reissue Out Now!

I was so excited about Barbara's debut yesterday that I completely forgot that I too had a book birthday: the mass market re-issue of AFTERTIME, the first in my post-apocalyptic trilogy for Luna. I also just received advance copies of REBIRTH, which will be out next month.

Aren't they gorgeous?? * sigh *

I'm so delighted with them, I'm going to make you an offer: the first three people to buy copies of AFTERTIME and post or send me a picture of your receipt (or even better, you with the book!), I'll send you a signed copy of REBIRTH!

Read more about AFTERTIME - including reviews and an excerpt - here.

You can read about all the latest paranormal titles from Harlequin here.

I am in the process of getting the covers and links updated on my website, but in the meantime, the new versions can be found here and here.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Meet Author Barbara Taylor Sissel!

Hey people, it's my pleasure today to introduce you to a new voice in the kind of fiction we love: a character-rich thriller with plenty of heart. Barbara Taylor Sissel also has the same agent and editor and web designer as me, and I got to read an early copy of her book! - so you might say we're two peas in a pod. 

Barbara's offered to give a copy of her book away to a randomly chosen commenter. From the book jacket: "With a voice that resonates with stunning clarity, Barbara Taylor Sissel delivers a taut and chilling mystery about a mother's love, a wife's obsession and the invisible fractures that can shatter a family." Read on to learn more!

SWL: What turned you into a writer - and when?

BTS: The love of reading. Growing up books were my refuge, one of the few constants in my life. We moved a lot, but wherever we landed there was always a library within walking distance or a bus ride. I remember being around eleven, or so, reading Wuthering Heights, and so immersed in the story, just taken out of my world, and at one point, I looked up and thought, I want to do this. I want to give this gift of escape into an imaginary world to others. I have always felt I learned more, too, from reading fiction than non-fiction. I think if you want to teach someone, if you want them to remember something, tell it to them in a story.

SWL: You had a few indie books under your belt before you acquired an agent and a book deal. Has your workday changed at all since then?

BTS: I have more time for actual writing. With indie publishing, you wear all the hats, author, editor, publisher, publicist. I’m so grateful for the opportunity, for all that I learned, but the writing is what I love best, and I feel it’s what I do best, and so, although I work the same amount of hours, or perhaps even more now, I’m glad to spend more of it on the creative side rather than the business side.

SWL: What does a good writing day mean to you?

BTS: It’s a couple of things. I can relate one perfect example from writing Evidence of Life. I wrote myself into one of those corners that I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how I was going to find my way out of when, one day, a certain old man came to life all on his own and showed me the way. It was like auto writing. In all the novel’s incarnations, I scarcely ever changed a word. For me, any day that something like that happens, it’s a fabulous writing day. But I’m pleased, too, when I do whatever number of words, and they’re reasonably coherent, something I can work with. If I can come back to the work the following day and not rip them all out and start over, I’ll take that. It’s all good.

SWL: Texans seem so exotic to us Californians - what do you love about your state?

BTS: Well, to be honest, I’m a (mostly) midwestern transplant, and it took me a while to love anything about Texas. It was flat and hot on my arrival, and it pretty much stayed that way. The gardening here is hard. I can’t grow lilacs or peonies the way my mother did. But that said, the state and I have made a kind of peace, especially ever since I was introduced to the Texas Hill Country. I loved setting my novel, Evidence of Life, there, and writing about it. There really is some kind of magic there, at least for me, and I know I’m not alone. Most people are affected in some way when they visit. I can’t decide if it’s something in the air, or the sky or the scenery, which is absolutely gorgeous in spots … it’s hard to put your finger on, but it’s one of my favorite locations out of all the places I’ve been.

SWL: Tell me something that few people know about you.

BTS: Well, here’s one thing that popped into my mind: When challenged by a nutty co-worker to a belching contest several years ago at the office where I was employed as an admin assistant, I actually participated. My youngest son, David, who worked for me after school at the time, participated too. He won. It was an unfortunate case of the pupil (him) exceeding the teacher (me) and I’m still mad about it! 

SWL: What's the next big dream on your list?

BTS: To write a better book. That’s always first. But another big dream I have is to join my son in the Hill Country, where he has bought land and is planning to open an aquaponics farm. For anyone who isn’t familiar, aquaponics is a sustainable, food production system that combines a traditional aquaculture (raising fish in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment, ending in the eventual harvest of both vegetables and fish without the use of harmful chemicals or the depletion of water resources. As a graduate of Texas A&M’s School of Horticulture, David is following his dream of supplying healthy, organic food to grocery stores and restaurants as well as to individual food shoppers. I’m looking forward to helping him with that, particularly since I finished reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal Vegetable, Miracle, about the year her family spent eating food that they either grew themselves or that was locally grown. In addition, I want to design and build my own house to live in there, using as much salvaged material as I can.  

Learn more about EVIDENCE OF LIFE at Barbara's site. For a chance to win a signed copy, please leave a comment or question for Barbara!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Serenity Prayer for Book Launches

I've been thinking about book launches lately because, well, I just had one, and a few friends of mine are getting ready for their own (I'll be inviting a couple of them to have a conversation here so be on the lookout - Barbara Taylor Sissel's going to be here next week and Robert Lewis next month).

Book launches are crazy making. They're the culmination of so much work - for me, inevitably, I can't even remember the first hazy notion that started the whole thing; so many revision rounds and adrenaline fueled jags and days of frustration have passed that I feel like I've gone around the globe a few times. Add to that all the editorial steps, the tasks in which one participates only peripherally, in traditional publishing anyway, but which still dot the landscape leading up to launch day: copy edits and cover discussions and marketing plans and publicity work. Time takes on a surreal quality: the longest I ever waited for a book to come out was two and a half years.

The hardest part for me is the promotion. I lack the "put-yourself-out-there"zest that some of my colleagues seem born with. (Please note that this isn't a criticism, even a veiled one; I envy people who can share their enthusiasm for their own work with gusto.) My promotion plan is to stammer, blush, shuffle, and do what Dana tells me.

You know I'm a huge fan of the serenity prayer, right? Anyone who's spent any time with me has probably been subjected to a twelve-step aphorism or two, but of all of them the SP is the big mama, the go-to for tough days (and easy days and every day). To refresh your memory:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Well, it works for book launches too, something I've been reminding myself about in the weeks since GARDEN OF STONES came out. 

What are the things we cannot change?

  • sales
  • reviews
  • distribution 
  • the amount of promotion being done by our publishers and marketing teams
  • the opinions of our family and friends
  • how well everyone else is doing

What are the things we can?

  • an appropriate amount of social media participation
  • giving more than we receive (and if you don't think I and everyone else notices how often you lend a helping hand - if you doubt that your generosity will come back to repay you many times over - then I'll see you at your new job at Wendy's)
  • figuring out what you're good at and enjoy and doing more of it
  • figuring out what hurts you and doing less of it 
  • willingness (a big mindfulness thing I've been working on; in short, it means doing things with your whole heart and without creating obstacles for yourself)
  • appropriate communication with your publishing team (they are not your babysitters/therapists)
  • gratitude - practice it every day

...and the wisdom to know the difference? Well, friends, I can't help you there. In my own case, it seems to come from making piles and piles of mistakes, getting up and dusting myself off every time, and getting older. Not much of a recipe, huh?

And the answer's going to be different for all of us. This post is going on a bit long so I'll save examples for another day, but there are some wonderful, joyous voices out there who are a pleasure to listen to as they share their enthusiasm for their books. And there are some incredibly talented writers who are even worse at this stuff than me. 

Here are a few of my successes this time around.  In the things I cannot change department:

  • Not checking amazon numbers much - the honest truth is about twice a week. I would prefer to lie to you and say I never check but that's too hard even for me!
  • Never checking Bookscan 
  • Spending zero time searching for other outlets where my book might be on sale
  • Ignoring Goodreads reviews - I've looked at them maybe twice (and okay, yeah, I do send the 1-star ones to my friends sometimes; we have a magic practice where we take away their power for each other, usually with gales of laughter and pointing out the grammar mistakes, such as "this book suck's")
  • Leaving my agent/editor in peace, knowing that if there is something I need to know about sales, they'll tell me

The things I can:

  • Listen hard to Dana, my publicist, as well as the rest of the team and figure out where I can improve
  • Turning in all requests - blogs, speaking engagements etc. - on time
  • Kicking as much ass as possible at my events
  • Keeping my relationships thriving 
  • Staying present in social media
  • Remembering every kindness that has been done for me and trying to pay it down the line

...oh, and the number one thing you and I can do to keep ourselves sane as our little book ventures out into the world: keep writing. Seize your next project with your teeth and shake it like a wet dog. Remember why we're here - for the words. Read a brilliant book and compliment the author; compliment yourself for a nice sentence now and then. Don't let a day go by when you were a promotor instead of an author, even if you just scrawl a few sentences in a notebook before you go to bed in a hotel in a strange city. 

Okay, best luck to all you launchers out there! 

Monday, March 18, 2013

AWP Raffle Winners

Hey lovelies, bet you thought I forgot, right? No, I'm slow but I eventually get around to ticking off nearly everything on the list.

So, here are the winners of signed books from among those wonderful folks who came to our Women In Crime Panel, with my gratitude: Cheryl Reed, Alicia Anthony, Diane Crothers, and - for a copy of Nicole Peeler's latest - Kathleen Ferguson.

I've notified all the winners by email but if I mangled the address or anything, please do be in touch!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Happy Anniversary to My Better Half!!

Recently I was on a panel speaking to an audience of aspiring writers, and the question came up of whether agents are still necessary or even "relevant." I suppressed a giggle. My colleagues and I listed all the ways an agent can save your bacon on a daily basis, often earning her keep many times over in the span of a single phone call - the call that gets things done, things that we as authors generally have no aptitude for and no business undertaking, much as we really oughtn't drill our own teeth.

But I got lucky. Five years ago, when I signed with Barbara Poelle, I didn't just get a firecracker in a nice pair of shoes. I got a trusted advisor, a big dreamer, a fearless truth-teller, a ballbuster, a renegade, and the perfect person to celebrate triumphs and crush defeat. In five short years the Littlefield-Poelle team has published a dozen books, with another four coming out in the next year. We've won awards and exceeded expectations and turned "no" into "hell yeah" - and we've barely begun.

Here's to the next five, B!

in the office 
last year at the Edgars 
in Berkeley 
with Holly Root 

with Jamie Freveletti on the night of her Thriller win 
RWA National several years ago 
with Robert Lewis

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Back from the East!

Did you miss me? I've been away at the AWP conference in Boston, where I was on a panel moderated by my former editor Toni Plummer from Minotaur. Toni had the brilliant idea to bring a bunch of us women crime writers together to discuss how and why we write woman-centric crime and mystery and urban fantasy fiction. We had a BLAST.

But the first day of the conference brought a special thrill: seeing Meg Wolitzer speak. I didn't get a very good picture, but oh well, I had to share it anyway, because Meg is the brilliant voice behind the must-read NYT piece from last year that raised a hell of a lot of hackles over a subject that shouldn't be controversial at all anymore, which I'd summarize as "hey publishing community, stop treating women as second-class citizens."  Oh, you missed it? Go here immediately!

During the conference I was lucky to stay with my brother Mike Cooper, his wife and kids. I also zipped around with Nicole as much as possible. Who wouldn't, given the opportunity?
that's my SIL Lisa, who made the beautiful poncho (so cozy!)

snow! lovely, lovely snow, seen from convention center
minx-like Dr. Peeler, me, and Linda Rodriguez at our panel

After AWP, I took a bus to New York City for a whirlwind day of meetings with the wonderful people I work with from afar: my agent Barbara Poelle, Erika Imranyi, who edits my Mira books (we were celebrating the release of GARDEN OF STONES!) and the dynamic duo of Abby Zidle, my editor at Pocket (for the Joe Bashir and Stella series) and her colleague Adam Wilson who was my editor for the AFTERTIME series. I was even able to  squeeze in coffee with Krista Vitola, my editor for my young adult novels at Delacorte.

Let's see; what highlights of the day are safe to share? Well, for one thing I was very well fed (and, uh, watered.) At lunch, *somebody* (not me!) made a number of rather off-color comments which got the rest of us howling with laughter - uh, at least those of us who weren't pregnant (again, not me!) and a little delicate, digestively speaking. And then at this beautiful restaurant where we had a lovely, light libation (or two or three or I lost count) I dragged Abby into this photo. I swear it looks like I'm about to topple from my chair. Who knows? Maybe I did. Even so - and even with the very, very, VERY long travel day on my return home (many flight segments! a wrong bus taken! no proper change for the shuttle!) this was one of the nicest trips in recent memory. 

me and Abby Zidle, editor at Pocket/Simon&Schuster
Thank you to Jimin Han for permission to share the photo of me, Nicole, and Linda!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Target Thrills

Sunday morning dawned bright and early. I checked email while the coffee brewed, and my friend Stacey Jay had emailed me that I should check out the Target flyer. So I ran out to Whole Foods to get the papers (and, you know, a few vegan donuts) and...

Yesterday, my son and I stocked up since I'll be traveling this week. Yeah, yeah, I'm a terrible mom, there's enough sodium in those 4 bags to kill a moose...but hey, gotta support the local Target...

and here he is! My son T-wa. :) I wish I'd snagged that little shelf tag. I mean, *my name* on a Target weekly special card? swoon!

...and here's the display all fresh and pretty. Thrills!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Officially launched!

Last week I had two launch events to send GARDEN OF STONES out into the world. I always get nervous before public appearances, and I'm always convinced that I babble awkwardly, but I've figured out a cure for both: I invite friends and family who can be counted on to tell me I'm brilliant. Oh - and wine. Lots of wine, and snacks, and cheerful bartenders!

At Rakestraw, the bookstore in my old home town, I got to see lots of old friends and neighbors, including the woman I taught catechism with when our kids were little, and another woman whose daughter was in my daughter's preschool class. That's going back quite a ways, and I was really touched that they came. I also met some new readers, including Kay, pictured below, who put together this photo montage:

Yesterday, I did my first-ever event at Diesel in Oakland (my *new* home town!) Our old friend Pam Stirling, who used to work at the now-closed M Is For Mystery, made us feel very welcome. Julie introduced me, Rachael tended bar, my sister and son were there, lots of friends - new and old - stopped by, and there were actual real readers who came simply because they were interested in the book. (Pinch me! This last group still seems like a miracle to me.)  Oh, and I went WAYYY our of my comfort zone and wore a dress that had pattern. And color.