Location, Location, Location

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.

Upon Further Review

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.”


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…

Library Journal And I Are Totally Gonna Make Out

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.

Then And Now

I used to blog here.  It’s been about a year since FO went to blog heaven.  So many things are different now.  Like…

Then:  I had a blog with Lori, Alison, Karen and Neil.

Now:  I cut the dead weight.  (You can find them over in the side bar.)

Then:  I didn’t have a book deal.

Now:  I’m all book dealed up, baby.  Liquid Smoke on August 1st.  Stay At Home Dead in January.  (More on this book later.)

Then:  I was good looking.

Now:  I’m better looking.

Then:  I worked from home.

Now:  I teach high school students.

Then:  I wrote on a crappy computer.

Now:  I write on a super badass MacBook Pro.

Then:  I was impatient.


Then:  I had a Blackberry which refused to allow me to respond to blog comments on the go and caused me to spew profanity.

Now:  I have an iPhone to respond to your comments.  I still spew profanity for other reasons.

Then:  There were no In-N-Outs in Texas.

Now:  There are TWO In-N-Outs in Texas

Then:  Life was boring.


So as you can plainly see, Now clearly owns Then.