Friday, October 10, 2014

ND Dispatch #4: Williston snapshots

I thought it might be fun to share a few photographs of places which ended up appearing in the novel.

 You'll notice that Wal-Mart figures prominently: truly, it felt like the very heart of the town. I don't mean that in a bad way, either--though many of my loved ones are not fans of Wal-Mart, for me it evokes pleasant childhood memories. In Missouri, it was a place I could bike to, with air conditioning, where I could buy cheap treasures with my allowance....whereas in Williston it really has the feel of the general store/outfitter.

my rental car - after I scraped it off. It was dirty, had a cracked windshield, and smelled like cigarettes. Also - no snow tires!!

this is the start of the snow storm that ended up closing the highway and airport during my visit

WalMart, at midday when there were fewer shoppers

men sleep in their trucks in the lot due to the housing shortage

the Wal-Mart liquor store, by local law housed separately. This was the only part of Wal-Mart that I found depressing.

Western dress is standard

At WalMart, you can buy your groceries...

....get your hair cut.... all your cold-weather gear...

...get your nails done...

...and buy jeans for the whole family. No Lucky or Hudson here!

the Williston library...shoveling done by librarians!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

ND Dispatch #3: This Ain't the Chron, Sister

*** third in a series of posts from while writing THE MISSING PLACE ***

Thursday, January 10, 2013

So I picked up a copy of the Bismarck Tribune this morning, having read the Williston paper yesterday. I gave it a good peruse over my diner breakfast.  It didn't take me long at all to conclude that this is a very different paper than we read in the Bay Area. I mean, I get that any newspaper at all is an anachronism at this point, that I hold history in my hands - crumbling, soon, to forgotten dust - but it was still a bit jarring.

Here are just a few things I don't think you'd find in the SF Chronicle:

1. The headline "U.S. Tax Code Longer Than Bible"

2. A sidebar on "Winter Survival Kit Basics" that includes this item:
"Food, such as hard candy, jelly beans, raisins, nuts, candy bars, dehydrated fruit and jerky." Emphasis mine, of course. But jaysus, I can only imagine walking into the Oakland Whole Foods with this list in hand...

3. A *full-page* ad congratulating Miss North Dakota. Way to go, Rosie, and it's sort of sweet that you've got the local folks so solidly behind you.

4. Three of the six obituaries with editorial content mention horses.

5. Classified ads. With pictures. Like, before craigslist, remember? You can buy an antique tackle box, wedding dresses, tires, 1950s license plates...

(People, I'm writing this in the Williston Public Library and there is a guy at the next table with *chaw*. I swear it. His chewing noises are very rhythmic, so there's that; I'll just pretend it's waves crashing on a beach or something.

Also, here's a snap of a Williston librarian performing a service that I don't think are required of her Oakland colleagues.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

ND Dispatch #2: THE MISSING PLACE soundtrack

*** second in a series of posts from while writing THE MISSING PLACE ***

I cheated a little when creating my writing soundtrack for the MISSING PLACE. Usually, I choose music based not on my own taste but on that of the characters. For instance, when I was writing BANISHED, my first young adult novel, I listened to a lot of Seether and Staind.

Not so this time. I guess I gave myself permission to take some liberties because this was my most challenging book yet, so I paved the way by choosing a theme song by my favorite artist, Chris Knight, called "North Dakota". Check it out here:

As it happens, I love Shay's theme song too: "One of Us" by Joan Osborne. It's a weird coincidence that Shay, in my mind, looks almost exactly like Joan.

Colleen was a little tougher. I love Colleen, but I don't love her taste, probably because she's cobbled partly from parts of myself that I've left behind. So I imagine her to listen to uptight, bland music, the sort of thing they might play at Sur La Table, for instance, if they play music there...maybe upbeat tunes (with a thread of desperation that I'm probably imagining) from the likes of Phil Collins and John Mayer.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

MISSING PLACE in the magazines

The only thing better than seeing your book reviewed in a magazine while you're standing in line at the grocery store is getting an issue of one of your favorite magazines in the mail--one you've subscribed to for over a decade--and finding it there.

I'll leave it to you to guess which was which, but THE MISSING PLACE received nice notice from both Better Homes & Gardens and Fitness magazines this month.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

ND Dispatch #1: Inside a man camp

*** first in a series of posts from while writing THE MISSING PLACE ***

I'd love to share a little of what I learned while visiting Williston, North Dakota to learn about the oil boom and the "man camps" in which the rig workers live. I'll let my pictures do the talking for the most part. A few observations:
  1. North Dakota is really, really cold in winter, at least as experienced by a NorCal resident.
  2. People are nice. Even when there's no reason to be.
  3. There are no set quiet hours when shifts span the entire 24-hour day: someone is always trying to get some sleep, and someone else is getting up for work, or trying to relax at the end of their shift.
  4. The food is *awesome*. I'm sorry I didn't think to get pictures of the kitchen and dining area, but their chef is talented and much appreciated.
All of these photos were taken at the Black Gold Williston Lodge, whose proprietors were kind enough to let me stay. It is a clean, warm, pleasant place. Check out their Facebook page for a great aerial view. 

Black Gold Lodge--parking lot was just plowed after snow

Deck in entry area

View of dorm wing
Coffee, tea, cocoa are hot and ready around the clock

Bible study, run by volunteers

hallway of a dorm wing

these are made from giant shipping containers. you can see the "seam" in this one

the rec room: games, big TV, comfy couches

there's an exercise room...but who'd have energy after a 12 hour shift?

view from my room - wind chill was minus-15 degrees

Each room has a locker and hooks for your things...

a desk and lamp...

and double bed, with TV bolted to wall overhead

Friday, September 19, 2014

Review Love from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus & Suspense

My release day is less than a month away, and the reviews are beginning to come in.  So pleased to report the nice things being said:

Publisher's Weekly
Two women from opposite ends of the country, and the socioeconomic spectrum, join forces in a desperate race to discover what happened to their missing oil rig worker sons in this moving mystery from Edgar-finalist Littlefield. Combining their complementary skills—Shay’s doggedness, Colleen’s diplomacy—the mothers start to make some headway, but that may not be enough to outmaneuver the forces trying to stymie them (or to overcome their simmering mutual distrust). Littlefield maximizes the emotional impact of her character-driven cautionary tale. 

A dark tale of two mothers seeking their sons, dead or alive. As twist leads to turn, they discover how poverty, greed and jealousy can add up to tragedy. Edgar Award nominee Littlefield deftly contrasts Shay's and Colleen's experiences and prejudices. Colleen's...conflicts with Shay neatly calibrate her troubles with Paul. It's a good yarn, weaving together corporate and personal malfeasance. A satisfying, icy thriller.

Suspense Magazine
Littlefield leads us through the snow and slush chasing red herrings, from the oil rigs to the local bars. It doesn’t really leave us with a traditional happy ending, but then life rarely does. This is a story of a mother’s determined yearning for the truth no matter what and in that, we are dragged to the emotional ending as harried, exhausted, as those searching. I read this on one sitting, unable to leave the fray with the boys’ lives at stake.

And a very delightful surprise - today when I got home, there were two packages waiting outside my apartment door, from two special people - Abby Zidle, my editor at Simon& Schuster, and Laura Palmer, my UK publisher.  I had a feeling I knew what was inside: the finished copies of my book. I'm well beyond pleased with how they've turned out!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Cover Reveal: UK

I'm thrilled to share - the UK version of the MISSING PLACE - titled THE MOON POOL - will be released on October 9th, a few days before the US version. The cover is A-MA-zing - my publisher, Laura Palmer at Head of Zeus, says it will be matte black with the image all shiny. Cover bling!!  (every author's dream :)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

RWA Report

I'm sitting in a San Antonio coffee shop. Not the main conference hotel one, which is full--even at this early hour--with my beloved fellow RWA members abuzz with the energy of the final day (and the prospect of the awards ceremony tonight). I'm taking a break, in this tucked-away spot, with a few local cops for company, savoring the relative silence before I jump back into the fray.

This has always been my favorite conference. I've attended for many years, long before I had ever published a book. I love the enthusiasm of the first-timers, the collegial kindness of veteran attendees. I love the generous sharing of ideas and advice and experience. I love seeing some of the stalwarts speak, seeing how their careers have taken twists and turns none of us could have predicted.

Any number of years ago, I developed a publishing crush on editor Abby Zidle, who struck me as the wisest and funniest person around. It would be another decade before we started working together, but a couple nights ago I got to sit with her on the Pocket/Gallery party bus (disco lights! tipsy authors attempting pole dances mid-transport!).

Another highlight was my signing. Gallery generously printed up some ARCs, but by the time I reached the signing room after my workshop, they were almost all gone. This is a far cry from my very first signing at RWA National, where the books somehow got lost in transport, or subsequent ones where I sat nearly hidden behind my stacks of books, unable to interest anyone in them. Nowadays kind readers seem more willing to take a chance on me -- and I'm hoping they enjoy MISSING PLACE.

Here's a photo of me with one of my very favorite RWA authors, Sheila Roberts. She embodies everything I love about this group: classy, funny, sweet and sassy. I'll be shipping her new book, along with a dozen other treasures, home today, so that when I get back to California and find the box waiting for me, the magic of these few days will last a little longer. (Yes, I realize I'm sounding a little Tinkerbell-ish, and you may be wondering where my cranky usual self has gone, but that's just how special this group of women is.)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Hey, Four-Eyes!

I've been a glasses wearer since I was a little kid. I have very few memories of me or my brother that don't include glasses, in fact. (Our younger sister was spared for a little longer; she's the least myopic of the three of us.)

Few of my glasses-related memories are good ones. My friend Gigi delights in her glasses and, as she told me this morning, can't understand why anyone *wouldn't* want to wear glasses if given the chance. My friend Jessie wore fake glasses in high school because she liked the way they looked.

Not me. I despised my glasses from the very first pair, a dreadful octagonal blue granny frame that my mother, for reasons I can't fathom, fell in love with. The eighties arrived and I had the enormous beetle-face frames everyone wore back then - but my prescription was so strong that they weighed about eleven pounds and constantly slid down my face. As soon as I saved enough waitressing money I bought contacts--but it turned out I have sensitive eyes. Contacts and I began a mutually antagonistic relationship that lasted for decades, until several days ago. My eyes were always red, irritated, teary, and because of my astigmatisms, not very well corrected. Clear vision was not one of my assets, but I worked around that by ignoring what the professor wrote on the board, guessing at highway signage, and wearing my contacts in inadvisable conditions like camping without fresh water and waterskiing and stumbling home from parties at 4am.

Insecurity didn't help matters. I now understand the very sexy allure of the right pair of glasses (and, lucky me, have amassed a stunning collection of reading glasses which I will wear for working), but as a young person I was convinced that any man, given the choice between kissing a bespectacled girl and one who was not, would never choose me.

so creepy!
Two weeks ago I had LASIK. Now I wake up and *see*. With uncorrected vision of 20/450, this is nothing short of miraculous. I'm thrilled. The procedure itself was creepy as hell, and so is my eye currently, but soooo worth it. I'm going to go to the movies, stay up all night, go camping, fall asleep with a book, wear too much makeup, borrow my friends' eyeliner--all the things I've never been able to do without miserable consequences.

And then I'm going to wear my very sexiest reading glasses on a date. :)

PS Thanks and love to Nurse Julie. How many hospital waiting rooms is that that we've almost been thrown out of now? Though I'm sure the nice lady across the room is still wondering what was so funny about "We Bought A Zoo."

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

What's for Dinner?

You can ignore this post - it's really for Junior, who is working at her first job far from home this summer, and wanted to know what to make for dinner that was cheap and healthy. (But if you're my superfan and you're curious about what I have for lunch pretty much every day, read on!)

First things first: go to the store and buy a pre-cooked chicken, pasta, and some veggies. Any veggies will do, pretty much.

Start the pasta. Then wash and chop up the veggies. Do enough for two or three meals.

Now cut up the chicken. Use a sharp knife and a fork. (Chop the veggies first so you don't have to wash the cutting board.)

A chicken will be enough for at least three meals. Put the extras in baggies in the fridge.

Heat oil on high or med-high on the stove. Here is how much to use:

While it's heating up, give the veggie scraps to a hungry beagle. :)

Saute the veggies that take the longest, which include green beans, peppers, onions, carrots. Just stir them in the oil until they begin to brown.

Next add tomatoes, zucchini, snap peas if you are using them and stir around for a while.

Turn heat to medium and add greens, like spinach. Put in lots! You won't believe how much they cook down.

While those are cooking, get out your spices and cheese if you like. (I use salt, pepper, herbes de provence that Julie brought back from france, and I shredded my own cheese because I am fancy. but you can use pre-shredded parmesan and Italian Seasoning.)

Stir the spices into the pan, then put on your cooked pasta, and sprinkle the cheese on top.

It's too hot to eat at first, so go ahead and put some hot soapy water in the pan. It'll be much easier to clean later!

 You'll have enough to share, so offer some to your roommate!!  (Love you, sweetie!)