Simon Wood

Simon Wood's Blog

Damn my dyslexia!!! Usually it’s a problem (a.k.a. a pain in the arse) but for once, it did me a good turn. The idea for my new book DECEPTIVE PRACTICES came from a misread. A couple of years ago I was flipping through the TV Guide on my television and I came across a TV movie called The Green-Eyed Monster. The description said it was about a wife who hires an organization to beat up her cheating husband. That was right up my alley so I watched it. The movie had nothing to do with what I’d read. It was about a woman who fixates on her next-door neighbor’s husband. I went back through the TV Guide and found the description was accurate to the movie I just watched. How the hell I’d read what I thought I read I have no idea. The descriptions weren’t even close. It’s one of those frustrating things that comes with dyslexia. You start reading something, your imagination takes over and rewrites it all for you, and you end up with something completely different. I remember being in engineering school during a class where we had to read some chapter from a book and when we came to dissect it I seem to have been the only one in the class who’d read something completely different. Like I say, dyslexia is a pain in the arse.

When something like this happens, it usually comes with a large chunk of frustration. How can my brain be that far off on its interpretation of just a few sentences? What is wrong with me? Why can’t I just read the words in front of me? You really shouldn’t be let out in public without a seeing eye person to help you! But this time around I wasn’t so pissed off. Had my brain just handed me a book idea? What if a woman did hire an organization to beat up her cheating husband? I did a quick search on IMDb to make sure I hadn’t read the right thing but on the wrong channel and found there was no movie like that made. I let this idea grow for a bit and came up with the concept that there was an underground business that operated on a similar basis to the scared straight documentaries in that if you hired them, they would beat some sense into a wayward spouse with the aim of turning them around or getting some marital revenge. The ideas started coming and I developed a company name and their sales pitch: Do you have a cheating spouse? Has counseling failed? Want to get even with them? Then hire Infidelity Limited to teach them a lesson…

And DECEPTIVE PRACTICES was born. I know, I know it sounds like a crazy business idea but if I were to attach an app to the concept, I probably have a billion-dollar company. If it’s got an app then it’s legitimate. I think that’s how it works.

Naturally I can’t have a plot line that is that straightforward. I have to toss a few hand grenades into the mix. So the plot line for the book goes like this: Olivia Shaw is living a nice suburban life until she discovers her husband is cheating on her. When her sister suggests Infidelity Limited can offer some closure, Olivia buys their sales pitch. Olivia learns how Infidelity Limited really works when her husband turns up dead and she’s drawn into a dark web of blackmail and murder — just like all their other clients. Now, Olivia finds herself the prime suspect in her husband’s death and as the police close in on her, she has only one option—take down Infidelity Limited.

Usually dyslexia is nothing but a problem for me, but for once it gave birth to a book so I can’t knock it too much. So here’s to the next misread and all the ideas it conjures up!

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DID NOT FINISH is a book that is very close to my heart as it’s a mystery centering on the world of motorsport. Thirty years ago, I raced open-wheel cars motorsport in the UK.

In the book, a death threat is circulating around the pits. Derek Deacon says he’ll kill his championship rival, Alex Fanning, unless Alex throws the championship deciding race. Rookie driver, Adrian ‘Aidy’ Westlake, doesn’t put too much stock in the threat. He figures Derek is just playing mind games. That changes when Alex dies on the track after banging wheels with Derek. A cover-up ensues. The police wrap up their investigation without following up on the death threat, TV coverage omits the crash and the racing community seems happy to ignore what they heard. Aidy is the exception. He feels obligated to expose the truth and finds himself dragged into a much larger conspiracy.

A real incident is the basis for DID NOT FINISH. I was competing in a regional championship where a rumor was floating around the paddock that a driver threatened to kill the championship leader if he didn’t win and, just as in the book, that driver died in a crash during the race. At the time, I felt quite helpless. There is a world of difference between an idle threat and an actual murder. What made the situation even harder for me to accept was that minutes before the race started, the driver who died had shared something with me that he hadn’t even shared with his family. It’s a confidence I’ve kept for twenty years.

Did Not Finish is not an attempt to expose a crime or rewrite history but illustrate life in the fast lane. Motorsport is an expensive game. To compete, you need more than just a bat, a ball and a pair of sneakers. You need a small army. Even at a grass roots level, it costs tens of thousands each year to own, maintain and race at a competitive level. Because of that, the desire to win gets amped up and tensions run high. Competition brings out our best, but it can also bring out our worst, so dirty tricks aren’t out of the question.

Naturally, there’s rule bending in motor racing and I can’t say I didn’t pull some stunts to help me survive in the sport. Other people I knew took more drastic measures, especially when it came to money. Some people borrowed heavily, in some cases turning to loan sharks. Others got involved in a variety of criminal pursuits to make ends meet. They ranged from misdemeanors such as theft to major felonies such as drug trafficking. Some individuals felt they had to protect their interests and did so by intimidating others or flagrant cheating. Some of the stuff that occurred is enough to make your hair curl. And in most cases, all these acts boiled down to people doing anything to hang on to their dream and win. It’s a siren song that’s hard to ignore.

Dick Francis showed the dark side of the world of horseracing, I’m hoping to do the same through Aidy’s adventures. He lives in the shadow of his famous father, the late, great driver, Rob Westlake, who died along with Aidy’s mother in an auto wreck after securing a Formula One contract. Raised by his grandfather, Steve, himself a retired Grand Prix mechanic, Aidy is following in his father’s footsteps.

As the series develops and Aidy makes his rise through the world of motor racing, he’ll be drawn into the various issues affecting the sport. And as he does, he’ll learn one thing—in motorsport, murder will always happen breakneck speed.

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I’m very topic driven when it comes to my books. I latch onto an issue, it becomes the basis of a conflict and a book is born from there. With THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY, survivor guilt was the driving force behind the story. It was a subject that had been in my head for awhile. I had the beginning of the story—two women are abducted and one of the women is given an unenviable decision—attempt a futile rescue or leave her friend in order to escape. My heroine in this case, Zoë Sutton, weighs up the odds and runs, but her life is forever tarnished by that selfish, yet logical decision.

That was the crux of the story, but I had to decide where to go from there. I knew little about the topic of survivor guilt, but at the time I was under the care of a neuropsychologist for a head injury and subsequent memory loss after crashing on my bike. I mentioned that I wanted to talk to someone about survivor guilt.

“Go to the VA.”

“But the book isn’t about soldiers.”

“Doesn’t matter. If you want to learn about post traumatic stress disorder, then go to the VA.”

I was introduced to a psychologist who counseled veterans of various conflicts going all the way back to Vietnam. I outlined the basic premise of the book and opened with a question that outlined my basic ignorance and sat back and listened. The great beauty about in-person interviews is that I don’t have any idea where they’ll go, other than nowhere where I thought.

I thought I had an idea of what survivor guilt and PTSD were but it was a good example of an outsider’s perspective. Our long and lengthy discussions got into the meat of the subject. Some of the common afflictions affecting people include sobriety, impulse behavior, isolationism, arrogance, and contempt to name a few. I’ve attempted to incorporate these behaviors into Zoë’s character which also helped drive the plot.

As I tried to absorb this information, I couldn’t help but marvel at this condition where people feel shame for surviving. You fight for your life and win, but your mind discounts the win and obsesses on the loss. The survivor takes on the emotional weight and responsibility for those who didn’t make it and it’s just too big a burden for him/her to bear. The result is that the survivor drives themselves to destruction either directly by throwing themselves into similar conflicts or indirectly through substance abuse and depression. This has to be the most paradoxical illness on the books.

But it’s this paradoxical thinking is what drew me to write about the topic. Ten years ago I was undergoing first responder disaster training. One of the modules dealt with the psychological effects of rescuing the dead and dying; making life and death decisions for total strangers. Then they told us the suicide rate for first responders and it was quite scary. A friend of mine who is both an author and veteran recently posted a stat about returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. Almost four times as many veterans have taken their lives since coming home than those who died in battle. There’s not a lot I can say to that other than we’re strange and complex creatures who don’t always make sense.

I hope with THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY I’ve made an entertaining read but at the same time, I’ve shined a light on a subject that most of us aren’t really cognizant of. If you read the book, I encourage you to let me know what you think.

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I hadn’t intended to put my heroes, Scott Fleetwood and Tom Sheils, through the fictional wringer for a second time but something cropped up.

When I start a book, I don’t build it around a character or plotline. I’m premise driven. More often than not, that premise is a real world one. TERMINATED was built around the issue of workplace violence. ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN explored corruption in the life insurance industry. It was survivor guilt for THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY. And for my latest book, SAVING GRACE, it was the manipulation of the free press.

Now before you go rolling your eyes, it’s not what you think. This has nothing to do with the current fake news claims. I’ve been looking into this issue for a quite some time. The tough thing about writing a book is it takes a long time from concept to final product. Who knew an election cycle would muck things up for me?

My interest dates back ten years when there was a kidnapping of a child in Portugal. Planted stories and media manipulation marred the investigation, which hasn’t been solved even today. The more insidious side to this story was that people profited monetarily from the incident. My writer’s radar became attuned to the issue and I came across more instances of abuse from within and outside the media. I’m sure you’re aware of some instances.

The subject was too enticing to ignore. If I was going to turn to the world of media and evil shenanigans, there were two characters I could turn to—reporter Scott Fleetwood and special agent Tom Sheils of the FBI. They were protagonists of a fan favorite, PAYING THE PIPER. I’d put these guys through hell in PIPER, and it’s that notoriety that gets exploited in SAVING GRACE.

No longer a reporter, Scott Fleetwood is still recovering from the aftermath of tangling with the notorious kidnapper, the Piper, when a new foe emerges from the shadows. The Shepherd announces to the San Francisco Independent that he has snatched a young girl from a vacationing family. The Shepherd has two demands for the safe return of the girl—a cash ransom and for Scott to act as his intermediary between the family and himself. The kidnapping brings in Special Agent Tom Sheils and his team to work the case and watch over Scott. The Shepherd promises the girl’s safety as long as Scott follows the rules of his game. Forced to trail the kidnapper’s twisting lead—and haunted by a previous victim he failed to save—Scott is desperate to keep the past from making a brutal comeback.

Each of the Shepherd’s demands are played out on the world’s stage for everyone to see with Scott as the star of a perverse reality show. As the stakes get upped, Scott realizes he’s a pawn of a much larger scheme.

I won’t say how the media is being manipulated in SAVING GRACE. For that you’ll have to read the book. And when you have, come talk to me and I’ll tell you about the facts behind some of the lies. You can learn more about the book here.

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Sadly my website was hacked earlier this week, totally destroying it.  The site is back up but it was down for a couple of days, so if you sent a message and I didn’t get back to you, let me know or please resend.

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My first thriller ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN has come of age.  It was first published 18 years ago this month!  This book is very special to me because we’ve been on a quite a journey over that time.  It’s been responsible for a lot of firsts in my writing career:

  • First book I wrote.
  • First published book.
  • First mass paperback release.
  • First book to be translated.
  • First book to sell a 100,000 copies.

When I look over my writing career, this book has been the one that kept me career moving on to the stage. Although first published by a small publishing house, it picked up a lot of good trade reviews which gave me some legitimacy as a writer. That resulted in the book picking up a contract with a New York publisher. When the NY publisher folded during the credit crunch, it was the book to reboot my career I relaunched it as an ebook. The sales success of the ebook resulted in an 8-book deal with a new publisher and a new edition. And if it weren’t for that 8-book deal, I wouldn’t have the success with other books. Wherever I examine my writing career, invariably it all stems back to ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN.

This book about obscure facet of the insurance industry changed my life.  I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for it.  I will forever be in this book’s debt.

If you’d like to learn more about the book, you can learn more here.

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This one is for the writers amongst you. Over the last few years, I’ve developed a number of online writing courses for Sisters In Crime. The workshops haven’t been available outside of their membership until now. I’m planning on having a different writing workshop every month, but I’m kicking off this first phase with five classes. Here’s what’s on the docket:

The start dates for the classes are as follows (just click the links for course details):
KILLER SUSPENSE: October 5th
PLOT THICKENERS: June 8th
MANAGING POINTS OF VIEW (POV): July 6th
SHORT STORIES: August 3rd
AUTHOR PROFESSIONALISM: September 7th

The nitty gritty:
The format of classes is a mix of videos and handouts as part of an online classroom.
The classes run for two weeks with 6 to 7 lessons in each workshop, except for the plotting workshop, which is three weeks.
With every lesson, there’s an assignment and feedback. You aren’t obliged to do the homework or send it to me for feedback. It’s entirely up to you.
The class is conducted via groups.io. People are expected to join in and comment on everybody’s work.
Lessons will be posted every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. That is subject to change. If people need more time then I will slow the lessons down.

Workshop cost: $50 each (exception for the Plot Thickeners – that’s $65)

If you’d like to sign up, please send me an email.  Let me know if you have any questions.

UPDATE: The WORKSHOP page is now linked to the website store for easier online signup.

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It’s been a pretty crappy last few weeks with canceled projects and events due to the Corona virus, but finally a shaft of light! I won HAW CREEK HORROR‘s contest for real life ghost stories.  I saw the call for true stories about the paranormal and on a whim, I entered.  I was quite chuffed to take the win.

The story is called MY OTHER SISTER and it’s my account of an apparition I encountered when I was seven-years-old. To this day, I can’t explain what happened but the events still haunt me now forty-five years later.

You can read the piece here and I hope it give you some chills while you are in isolation. 🙂

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Ebook distributor, Smashwords, is having an “Authors Give Back” special sale.  So for the next 30 days, a large number of my books are 30% off. This is includes some of my French language titles and the sale includes all formats to cover all ereaders.

If you need something to read during the global quarantine, please them out here & please share this post.  Thanks and stay safe.

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As I’ve done with my last few books, I’ve created a playlist for my Cockney Rhyming Slang inspired book TROUBLE & STRIFE. Each title relates to one of the stories in the book (although I’ve taken liberties with a couple of songs):

Steve Brewer’s BABBLING BROOK (slang for crook).
Song “The fun lovin’ criminal” – Fun Lovin’ Criminals.

Angel Luis Colón’s BUNSEN BURNER (slang for earner, as in making money).
Song “Earned it” – The Weeknd.

Johnny Shaw’s DICKY DIRT (slang for shirt).
Song “T-shirt weather” – Circa Waves.

Paul Finch’s MR. KIPPER (slang for Jack the Ripper).
Song “Jack the Ripper” – Screaming Lord Sutch.

Jay Stringer’s HALF INCH (slang for pinch as in to steal).
Song “Pinch me” – Bare-naked Ladies.

Catriona McPherson’s BARNET FAIR (slang for hair).
Song “Hair” – The Cowsills.

Susanna Calkins’ TEA LEAF (slang for thief).
Song “Nothing but thieves” – Amsterdam.

Travis Richardson’s LEE MARVIN (slang for starving).
Song “Wand’rin star” – Lee Marvin.

Colin Campbell’s TROUBLE & STRIFE (slang for wife).
Song “Trouble and strife” – Béla Fleck and the Flecktones.

Sam Wiebe’s A LADY FROM BRISTOL (slang for pistol).
Song “Who’s that lady” – Isley Brothers.

Robert Dugoni’s PLEASURE & PAIN (slang for rain).
Song “Love reign o’er me” – The Who.

As I curated this criminal enterprise, I chose “Trouble” by Ray LaMontagne and “Strife” by Trivium.

If you’ve read the book, these songs will make a lot of sense and if you haven’t, it should give you an inkling as to what to expect.

Learn more about the book here and listen to all the song below

 

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