Archive for July, 2011

I’m kinda pissed at Sara Gran.  She’s about to royally screw up my weekend.

I’ve got a ton of crap to do, okay?  Work on the novels (there seems to be this deadline staring me in the face whose gaze I keep avoiding), prepare for upcoming school year (who ate my summer?), learn Chinese (not really), scour the Internets for more awesome reviews of LIQUID SMOKE (oh lookee! I found one!), clean the house (hahahahah yeah right), sunbathe (during the middle of the night because it’s supposed to 152 degrees during the days) and unpack from my vacation (or just throw it all in the car and leave again).  I.  Am.  Busy.  But it appears as if Sara doesn’t care.

Now, I’ve never met her and she seems like a lovely woman from what I’ve read about her.  I heard lots of great things about Dope and Come Closer, but I never got a chance to read either because, you know, life and stuff.  So I’m sure she’s not trying to screw up my weekend on purpose.

But while I was on vacation last week, I happened across an interview she did with CNN.  In fact, I read it the day after leaving New Orleans, where I spent the first two days of my trip.  I was all like “Oh!  Wow!  Sara Gran wrote a book with a P.I. and I write books with a P.I. and she wrote a book set in New Orleans and I just left New Orleans!  We would probably be great friends!  Or awkward acquaintances!”  Anyway, after reading the interview, I was intrigued by what I’d read about her new book, Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead.  So I went to that big book seller on the Internet and discovered I could read the first few pages right then and there.

And…wow.  It doesn’t suck.  At all.  In fact, it’s kind of futhermuckin’ awesome.  So unsucky and awesome that I was forced to download it to that reading device I seem to be using a whole lot more these days.  And now I can’t put it down.

And now NOTHING is going to get done this weekend because I’m going to be spending the entire weekend reading Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead and reveling in it’s awesomeness.  THANKS ALOT, SARA!!!

If you’d like to screw up YOUR weekend, I highly recommend checking the book out.

When you go on vacation, you expect to find things you don’t expect to find, things that you’ll forever associate with the place you’ve visited.  Maybe an experience or the place you stayed or the people you met.

Last week, I found a cheeseburger.

Not just any cheeseburger mind you.  A CHEESEBURGER.

Now, in my life, I’ve consumed hundreds of cheeseburgers.  Maybe thousands.  I don’t know.  I should’ve kept a running chart or something.  But let’s just say I’ve eaten a LOT.  And there are many that have been memorable.  There is a small chain here in the DFW area called Jake’s that does an amazing cheeseburger on a poppy seed bun.  Delish.  There is a small chain in Colorado Springs named Conway’s Red Top that was featured in Fast Food Nation and it is terrific.  The growing by the day Five Guys is pretty darn good.  And my old standby, which recently arrived in Texas, has always been the Double Double at In-N-Out.

But while in Florida the past few days, I discovered something called Tops.

I almost missed it.  Because it’s attached to a car wash.  That’s right.  A car wash.  A tiny sliver of a building attached to a do it yourself car wash.

We joked about it as we drove by, but then decided we had to stop on our way back because, really, how many times in life do you get to eat a cheeseburger at the same time that you shop vac your car???

The menu is pretty simple.  We just ordered one because our expectations were pretty low.  Because it was attached to a car wash.  Cheeseburger with ketchup, mayo and pickles.  Some tots and a drink.  Would make for a nice laugh later on to say we ate a burger at a car wash.  Did I mention it’s at a car wash?  (CLARIFICATION:  Tops and the car wash are not affiliated to my knowledge.  They just share space.  I didn’t use the car wash, so it’s quite possible that the car wash might be just as awesome as Tops, but I’m unqualified to make that judgement.)

It came wrapped in plain white paper, kind of greasy, but not overly so.  Cheese melted, bun toasted, condiments oozing out of the sides.  So I took a bite.

And, uh, HOLYCRAPTHATISAMAZINGCHEESEBURGERPLACEATACARWASH!

Seriously.  If you’d put a bow and a arrow to my head (I hate guns) at that moment, I would’ve told you it had moved to #1 on my list of cheeseburgers and that is no small feat.  It comes with a certificate and a trophy and a picture of me.  Perfectly cooked, just the right size, great taste, in my gut too fast.  We drove back in silence, stunned by the exquisiteness of the Tops cheeseburger.  It was, in fact, tops.  (HAHA SEE WHAT I DID THERE???  BECAUSE ITS CALLED TOPS!!! HAHA)

We went back two days later and got two more.  Just to be sure.

EVEN BETTER.

So what’s the moral of our story?

Never dismiss a cheeseburger simply because it might be cooked next to a place where you wash the bird crap off your car.

 

So all of the Noah books take place in San Diego.  I was raised there and when I step off a plane there at Lindbergh Field, it still feels like home.  I wrote KILLER SWELL when I lived in Colorado and setting a book in San Diego was really a way for me to close my eyes and stay warm during the winter months.  It was easy to write about a place that I knew so well and had great affection for.  I also knew I could write about it and get the feel of the area across to the reader.

WICKED BREAK takes place there, as does LIQUID SMOKE.  Nothing in the story arcs necessitated me having to move the story.

The fourth book is a different story, though.  The events that take place in LS require me to move the setting to a new locale.  (This is me subtly spurring interest and forcing you to say to yourself “But WHAT events???  I MUST KNOW!!!  I BETTER BUY LIQUID SMOKE!!!)  I had originally settled on an international locale, but I never was fully convinced I could sell it to readers.  I didn’t think I could write about it in a realistic way and that worried me.  So I knew I needed to reconsider.

And now I’ve found my new location.

For the last few days, I’ve worked on the book.  From right here:

I’m not exactly sure of all of the details of the story yet.  I don’t outline.  It just sort of shows up in my head.  And I don’t have a title.

But I’ve found my location.

Do you see what I did there?  Up in the title?  I totally changed around what I normally do.  Do you get it?  Because the song today is awesome, Alison probably doesn’t have it on her iPod because her iPod is filled with bad songs.  Do you get it NOW?  I hope so.  Because it’s funny.  Trust me.

Anyway, today’s song is by Augustana.  Do you know Augustana?  If you don’t, I’d like to kick you and say “You should know Augustana.”  Because they are full of awesome.  They ooze it.  You will love them.  Do you hear me?  YOU WILL LOVE THEM.  Seriously.  The only way they could be any better is if they recorded a song called LIQUID SMOKE.

And maybe Alison will take my advice and download a cool song for once.

One Last Thank You

Posted: July 20, 2011 in Books
Tags: , , ,

I’d originally planned to write about something different today (stingrays?  Barbies?  best dinners on a Wednesday night?  you’ll never know!) but with the news earlier this week that Borders is closing it’s remaining stores, I changed my mind in order to share an experience I had in San Diego six years ago.

When KILLER SWELL came out in 2005, I spent a week out in Southern California doing book signings and promoting the book.  The novels take place in San Diego and I lived in SoCal for 26 years, so it was a natural fit – not only was there a local tie-in for the book, but I knew I could also draw decent crowds at signings.  Win, win.

All of the signings were scheduled for the independent stores in San Diego and Los Angeles, but during the day, I criss-crossed San Diego, Orange County and LA, signing every copy of the book I could find in the large chains.

There had been some confusion with the release date and many Barnes & Noble stores didn’t yet have the book.  There was a snafu within the complicated ordering system and many of the stores that had ordered the book had yet to receive it.  No one’s fault, but it was frustrating.

I’d spent the day hitting every B&N I could find in San Diego and I think I found four copies.  I was frustrated beyond belief.  I stopped at an In-N-Out in Mission Valley to grab a bite to eat before heading back to my buddy’s house in Fallbrook, tired, whiny, just pretty much done for the day.

Across the way from the In-N-Out was a Borders.

I sat at the outdoor table, eating, trying to talk myself into going into the store to see if they had any copies.  Somewhere between the last fry and the end of the neopolitan shake, I succeeded in convincing myself to go.

I walked in expecting nothing.

And instead, on the front table, I found about 20 copies of KILLER SWELL.  You couldn’t get in the store without tripping over them.

I stood there for a moment, stunned, for a couple of reasons.  One, I had never seen that many copies of the book in a store I wasn’t signing in.  And, two, I knew that my publisher had not paid for table space.  But yet my books were hogging the entire front table.

I went to the counter and introduced myself and before I could even ask if I could sign the books, the guy jumped around from behind the register, shook my hand and said “Oh my God.  Our manager is gonna freak that you’re here.  We all love your book!”

He ran to the back of the store and was back in thirty seconds with his manager and several other employees.  All introduced themselves to me and all had read the book.  The manager decided that it was going at the front of the store because he wanted “every single person in San Diego to read this book.”  He’d more or less forced the staff to read the book so that they could hand sell it to their customers.

They found a chair and had me sign the books right there in the front of the store, an impromptu signing.  We sold several copies of the book right then and there because the employees immediately set to work alerting customers in the store that I was there.  They had a ton of questions about the book and the characters and future books.  They were funny and smart and loved books and they made me feel like a rock star and I have never forgotten the 90 minutes I spent with them, a fantastic ending to what had otherwise been a crappy day.

When I saw the news that the remaining stores were closing, I thought of those people in that store.  They were people who took their jobs seriously and made a difference for authors who were lucky enough to find their books in their store.

And it just sucks that the pool of those kind of people – the people who literally help writers find readers – got significantly smaller this week.  It sucks that they lost their jobs and it sucks that they won’t be able to share their passion for books and reading with people who walk through the doors.  I feel for each and every one of them.

I thanked each of them about a hundred times that day before I left.  I just couldn’t believe what I’d walked into and it was hard to leave and I just wanted them to know how grateful I was.

And I just want to say thank you one more time.

Upon Further Review

Posted: July 18, 2011 in Books
Tags: ,

So the last couple of weeks I’ve been posting the pre-publication reviews of LIQUID SMOKE, as we move a little closer to the book’s release date.  I know there are a few more in the pipeline that will probably pop up in the next couple of weeks, though I have no idea whether they’ll be positive or negative.  What I’ve seen so far has been very positive and that’s a great thing.

But do those reviews really mean anything?

Depends on what you want them to mean.

In version 1.o of my career (read: before I was dropped by a major publisher and endured a painful hiatus from publishing), I was convinced that the reviews would boost my sales.  All of the industry publications said many kind things about KILLER SWELL and WICKED BREAK, comparing me to bestselling writers and using all sorts of fancy words to describe the books.  Upon publication, I got a fair amount of attention from media outlets and again, the majority of the attention was positive.  I was ecstatic.  It was thrilling to see that people liked what I was writing.  It gave me confidence.  When WB was featured in Entertainment Weekly, I distinctly remember thinking “Okay.  My career is safe.  Entertainment Weekly likes me.”

Wrong.

As happens frequently in the publishing world, the great reviews weren’t enough to sustain the series at the time and I found myself in No Writer’s Land.  Critics approving of your work doesn’t always translate to sales and that was a tough thing to balance in my head.  It made no sense to me that everything I was reading was positive about my work….and yet I wasn’t being offered another contract.

Slow-Forward to today and version 2.0 of my career.  The two major industry pubs have come out with favorable reviews of LIQUID SMOKE and the blogoshere is warming to it as well.  (Gerald So posted an incredibly nice review on Friday.)  But I’m looking at these reviews from a different perspective than I did in 1.0.

In 1.0, I was certain that the reviews were going to give me a long and lasting career.  I was looking at them from a business perspective, as if each review was promising me another book or another year in the business.  That left me extremely frustrated and disappointed.

In 2.0, I’m simply happy that people like my work.  These reviews are really just for me.  I’m glad people are reading the book and liking it.  I’m not counting on the reviews to do anything other than make me smile.  It’s validation for me that my belief that I’ve written a book that people would like was correct.  Will the positive reviews translate to sales?  I have no idea.  I hope so.

But right now, I’m just pleased that people seem to like the book.  And that’s enough for now.

Until I hit The List…

Remember when I told you I was never going to miss another Friday?  And then do you remember I told you I might?  Yes, you remember both?  Well then you are probably paying too much attention to this blog and should probably diversify your interests and improve the quality of your Internet reading.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure this horrible song is on Alison Gaylin’s iPod.  And the funny part is that it’s really not all that horrible.  And the video is quite spectacular.  Corey Feldman and Debbie Gibson will always interest me, but when you toss in Kenny G and Hanson, well that is just a fine way to kill a Friday morning.  MMMBOP!!!

Where have I been?  I don’t know.  Where have YOU been?  Don’t be so nosey, ‘kay?

Anyway, hey, guess what???  We found another great review for LIQUID SMOKE.  And the most amazing part:  I didn’t have to pay them to say all the nice words!

Library Journal says the following:

At the beginning of a bleak February in San Diego, Noah, an independent, surfer PI, is feeling fairly content; alas, his life is in tatters by the 28th. Shelby’s third entry (after Wicked Break) catches you from the first wave, when Noah learns his father, whom he has never met, is on San Quentin’s Death Row. After the woman who told Noah about his father turns up dead, Noah is compelled to pursue a past he’s always chosen to ignore. Soon Noah is crisscrossing San Diego’s inner realms, fighting with local casino thugs and trying not to panic Mexican immigrants in El Centro, who’d just as soon have him go away. Noah’s first-person narrative makes his confusion very personal, and the fear factor ratchets up with each chapter. With plenty of twists and a startling, compelling pace, this mystery will make readers hope Noah finds some justice in the bad set he’s inherited. Hard-boiled but not quite as noir as Don Winslow or Kem Nunn, Shelby’s book will appeal to Robert Crais fans for the sense of place and the lonely world the protagonists occupy.

Whoa.  You had me at “Shelby’s book will appeal to Robert Crais fans.”  Hey, Library Journal.  Come here so I can kiss  you on the mouth.