Simon Wood

Posts Tagged: accidents waiting to happen

Today is a very special day. It’s fifteen years since my first thriller, ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN, was first published. It’s been with four different publishers and still going strong.

Amazon and my current publisher Thomas & Mercer have joined the celebration. ACCIDENTS is just $1.99 throughout August, so if you’ve never read the book, now is a good time!

I’ll always be grateful to this little book as it truly changed my life.

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May is a bumper month for bargain books.  Amazon has gone to town with a whole host promotional offers on my books in the US, UK and Germany!!  Brace yourself.  Here they all are!!

ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN: Someone is out to kill Josh Michaels. An SUV runs him off the road and into a river. As his car goes down, the SUV’s driver watches only to calmly give him the “thumbs down.” This is only the first of the attempts. With his time—and maybe his luck—running out and no one willing to believe him, Josh had better figure out who wants him dead and why…before it’s too late.

Just 99c at Amazon

PAYING THE PIPER: The Piper is the infamous child kidnapper. When the Piper selected crime reporter, Scott Fleetwood, to chronicle his latest kidnapping, Scott thought he had the world in his grasp, but he held nothing.  Now, eight years later, the Piper’s back, with very specific targets in mind—Scott’s children. He can have them back as long as he can pay the ransom, but it’s a ransom not measured in dollars, but in blood.

Just 99p at Amazon UK.

THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY: Zoë and Holli’s Vegas road trip goes wrong when they’re abducted. Zoë escapes leaving Holli behind. A year later and still tortured with guilt, Zoë latches on to a murder that eerily resembles her abduction. Her attempts to find justice for Holli brings her to the attention of the “Tally Man.” For him, she is not a survivor but simply the one that got away.

Just 99p at Amazon UK

Was sie nicht tötet: Für die Studentinnen Zoë und Holli wird der Roadtrip nach Las Vegas zum Albtraum: Sie geraten in die Gewalt eines sadistischen Killers. Zoë kann entkommen, doch ihre Freundin muss sie zurücklassen.  Ein Jahr später wird Zoë noch immer von ihren Schuldgefühlen gepeinigt. Dann passiert ein weiteres Verbrechen, das auf schaurige Weise ihrer Entführung ähnelt. Gemeinsam mit einem Ermittler der Polizei versucht sie, die schicksalhafte Nacht in der Wüste zu rekonstruieren, in der Hoffnung, dass die Tat endlich gesühnt wird. Ihr Entführer wartet jedoch bereits auf Zoë. Für ihn ist sie keine Überlebende, sondern nur ein Opfer, das ihm vorübergehend entkommen ist.

Just Eur 2,49 at Amazon GMBH

Die Abrechnung des Kinderfängers: Über Jahre hinweg wurde der Entführer mit dem Spitznamen »der Kinderfänger« reich, indem er serienweise die Kinder der wohlhabendsten Familien San Franciscos entführte. Als der Kriminalreporter Scott Fleetwood einen Anruf von einem Mann erhält, der sich als der Kinderfänger ausgibt und ein exklusives Interview anbietet, packt Fleetwood die Gelegenheit beim Schopf. Aber der Anrufer erweist sich als Schwindler, und die überhastete Entscheidung kostet das aktuelle Opfer des echten Kinderfängers das Leben. Acht lange Jahre lebt Fleetwood mit der unerträglichen Schuld und der beständigen Verachtung der gesamten San Francisco Bay Area. Nun hört er vom echten Kinderfänger – und diesmal geht es nicht um ein Interview. Der Kidnapper hat den Sohn des Reporters. Aber er will kein Geld … er will Blut. Und er wird Fleetwood dazu benutzen, es zu bekommen.

Just Eur 2,49 at Amazon GMBH

I hope you’ll take advantage of this offer.  If you’ve never read any of my books, this might be the perfect time to start.  Enjoy!!

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People see a hill and think, “What a lovely place to build a home.”  I see a hill and think, “What a great place to bury a body.”  People see a quiet stretch of shoreline and think, “What a great place for a romantic walk.”  I see a quiet stretch of shoreline and think, “What a great place to execute a snitch.”  That’s the problem I have with traveling these days.  I love visiting new places.  I want to see the world.  If I didn’t have an explorer’s heart, I never would have discovered my Julie in Costa Rica.  Now when I travel, I don’t see locations, I see crime scenes.

I’m always on the hunt for a great locale.  I say to friends, “You live in a great neighborhood.  Where would the best place be to stash a body without anyone seeing me?”  My friends are cool with it.  They roll their eyes and entertain my fantasies.  I’ve stopped asking strangers these questions.  For some reason, it scares people.  Who knew?
I’m not a keen researcher as things go.  I like to lie in my stories, but I do like to go location hunting.  Accidents Waiting to Happen is set in Sacramento.  I’d only been there a couple of months when I got to writing it, so I needed some killing grounds.  I rode around the city and its suburbs on my bicycle in search of locations.  I didn’t have a car at the time, so I didn’t have much choice there, but having the bike meant I could stop anywhere I wanted to check out. 
I live in the Bay Area now.  San Francisco isn’t so much of a cyclist’s city, so I do a lot of scouting on foot.  For one of the stories in Working Stiffs, I wanted to kill someone on the Embarcadero.  So I started at one end and walked to the other poking about.  Sadly, I didn’t find anywhere useful but did find a site at Fort Mason.  I can’t recommend Fort Mason enough to kill someone (Fictionally speaking that is.  I don’t want anyone getting ideas and pointing fingers when it goes pear-shaped.  Alright?) 
The thing is that I don’t want to talk about the same old locations that everyone else uses in their books.  This is especially a problem with the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Area.  There are plenty of us scribblers around fighting for a fresh perspective on the town, so I really need to get my hands dirty.  Just like with methods of killing, writers want to keep it fresh and new for themselves and their readers.  Well, I know I do.
So I’m always on the hunt for a good location with plenty of originality.  It’s another reason I like to write about places outside of my usual stomping grounds.  Little known places provide a wealth of killer locales.  I have a tendency to go on road trips with Julie and the dog just so that we might check out somewhere I came across in a travel magazine or on TV.  I just have to have my hands on a killer location.
Don’t be surprised if one day, you sit down next to small yet affable stranger who’ll lean in close and whisper, “Do you know any good places where I can dump a body?”  Don’t panic.  It’s probably me.  Then again, it probably isn’t.

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A little while ago, I had a nice little surprise recently while watching Top Gear. They examined what to do if you crashed your car in a body of water. My ears pricked up at the mention of this because I used that exact situation in my first novel, ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN. In the opening chapter, the lead character is forced off the road and into a river and he has to work out his escape from a rapidly sinking car.

I was interested to see what they discovered to see if I’d guessed right. Whereas Top Gear has the budget to drop a car in pool with a camera crew, I don’t. For the book, I relied on my engineering background for what would happen. I knew there’d external and internal pressures as a car sank and you’d have to be Arnold Schwarzenegger to force open the doors. I also considered that power windows, etc. wouldn’t work either. My solution for escape was a play off what I was taught in flying school. If you ditch in the sea or something, I was told to open the door before impact, because you won’t be able to open them with the water pressing against them. In the book, my character breaks out through the windows before the car has a chance to submerge. This goes against conventional advice of sticking with the car while it sinks, let the car fill up with water and when the pressure has equalized, let yourself out. If this proved right, there was a rewrite on the books.

Well, my escape theory proved right and conventional advice didn’t work. I was very proud of myself. Yay me!!!

The practice test proved that it took a long time for the pressure to equalize and you would most likely run out of breath before then.

If you’d like to see how it all went, please watch the video clips.

Consider this blog entry a Public Service Announcement. My advice is to have something in the car to break the windows should you ever end up in the water. You want to get out as soon as possible. 🙂

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Recently I learned that someone is convinced that something in one of my books is real and I did it. This isn’t the first time this has happened. A few years ago, a woman at a book club who had read ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN asked me in all seriousness how many times I’d cheated on my wife because the story dealt with infidelity. Others have pushed me for answers about different aspects of my stories and my culpability. It can be a little bit disconcerting when someone asks you, “did you ever get caught stealing cars?” At the same time, I can understand why people will read something and put two and two together and come up with five. It might be fiction, but for any slice of fiction to be believable, the element of realism has to be strong. It has to get the reader to suspend their disbelief and buy into what they’re reading.

A writer’s storytelling style plays into this problem too. While any writer can proclaim that their writing is a reflection of the world around them, a book says more about the writer world view than anybody else’s. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that I show more than a little thigh from time to time in my stories. It’s impossible for my sensibilities and insensibilities not to show.

By the same token, when someone rushes up to me and demands to know how many times I’ve cheated on my wife, it reveals a lot more about their life and sensitivities than it does about mine. That’s the bugger about any story. Once it’s out there in the open, it’s a mirror and we all see something different when we gaze into it.

When it comes to the crimes I may or may not have committed, I have to fall back on Sharon Stone’s defense in BASIC INSTINCT. If I’d committed a crime, do you think I’d be daft enough to admit it in writing? I’m dumb, but not that dumb. 🙂

I will admit that while none of my stories are reenactments of things that have happened to me, there are flickers of personal experiences contained within the pages. While it would be nice to regurgitate life stories in my books, it doesn’t work that way. They just don’t fit well within the confines of a novel.

That said, I do occasionally insert a few inside jokes in my stories for my amusement and the amusement of friends, coworkers and family. Perhaps, an old boss’ name is used for a character who comes to a grizzly end. Sometimes I do things for my enjoyment only and the eye rolls of others. I used Julie’s name for a character whose husband was cheating on her and I killed my mother-in-law in another. Don’t worry, I haven’t done these things but I know I’m going to get a groan out of them when they read the story.

Of all the things I’ve been accused of doing in real life no one has accused me of killing anyone. I guess I should be flattered by the fact that some people think I’m an adulterer, a thief, or a blackmailer, but not a murderer.

I suppose my only advice to you, my readers, is not to wonder about the things I write about, but the things I don’t write about. 🙂

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“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” ~Sherlock Holmes

strangerI’m totally with Sherlock on this one…especially when it comes to the improbable.  I’m drawn to the weird, odd and bizarre.  I’m fascinated by the oddities in life that shouldn’t happen.  It appeals to my imaginative sensibilities.  Blame Roald Dahl and Rod Serling for making me believe in the crazy.  It’s the reason why I’m a rabid fan of the show BANSHEE but not LAW AND ORDERBANSHEE is crazy, intense and over the top and only works when the universe’s cosmic tumblers are off, whereas LAW AND ORDER is rooted in the now and the real, which makes it totally mundane to me (sorry Dick Wolf).  If I want mundane, I can pick up a newspaper or watch the evening news.  I want it weird.  I’m an escapist!  What can I say?

That’s why one criticism of my stories is that they push the limits of believability—and that’s true.  They do.  But for all that limit pushing, they don’t go outside the realm of the possible.  I go out of my way to pay attention to for the strange happening in the real world.   I think I have a fascination with the strange because I possess a small talent for calamity myself.  I have many firsthand accounts of how my life went off the rails.  One example was when I had a near fender bender on a roundabout which then developed into someone filing a fraudulent insurance claim against me.  That led to me being charged with half a dozen driving offenses and was topped off by the police handing me a confession they’d written for me to sign.  Seems a little unlikely but it happened to me…which you can read the complete account here.

So if it can happen to me, it must happen to others.

stranger2I’ve discovered some tragic and cruel twists of fate such as a Sacramento motorcycle cop who responded to a fender bender caused by  an elderly man who pulled out of a turn and tee-boned a car.  The cop felt bad for the elderly man and let him off with a warning instead of citing him.  The following week, the same elderly man did the exact same thing at the same intersection.  This time he struck and killed the motorcycle cop who’d let him off.  The weird what-if game that plays out in your head after that is what inspires my stories.

Things like this have been the inspiration for several of my books.  The trade of life insurance on the living which is the backbone for ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN is a real thing.  Private security firms being involved with workplace violence claims which is the foundation for TERMINATED came from something that was happening with one of my wife’s employers.  The disturbing series of suicides in WE ALL FALL DOWN were inspired by similar ones that happened between coworkers in the UK in the 80’s.

And while THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY, PAYING THE PIPER, NO SHOW, etc. don’t have any direct link to an actual event, they are inspired by a way of thinking.  Namely, how can a seemingly mundane event get its strange on?

Now I know this outlook might not be to everyone’s liking but if you’re willing to go off-piste and embrace the improbable, then I think you’ll enjoy the ride.

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I had another brush with Hollywood with a possible screen adaptation of my work.  A small production company wanted to adapt one of my short stories into a TV pilot.  After a few months of back and forth, the deal is effectively dead.  I came really close.  There were scripts, contracts and everything, but my screen horse fell down at the final fence on that highest of fences—contracts.  No IMDB credit for me.  A bummer, yes, but it’s one of those things.  Disappointing but I’m OK with it. 

Seriously, I am OK with this deal not coming off.  If this were a book deal, I would be pissed off, but when it comes to TV or film, I know I can’t allow myself to get too carried away.  Years ago, a Hollywood friend warned me how difficult it was to get a project to screen.  It was a warning borne out by author friends who’ve had books wrapped in option and development purgatory for years.  Not surprising when you consider how few movies and TV shows are made each year.  So like I say, when it comes to TV and movies, I don’t let myself get too wrapped up in it because I’m only setting myself up for heartbreaking disappointment.
That isn’t to say I wouldn’t love to see something of mine on screen at some point.  Tomorrow would be nice, but it’s a fickle business and I know it may never happen.
I may be a little case hardened.  This is about the fourth interaction with movie or TV people without success.  The most interesting offer came from a Korean film company that wanted to make PAYING THE PIPER in Seoul, which would have been very cool.  Sadly, that one never got much traction.  ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN and THE FALL GUYhave also been tapped for movie adaptation too with similar results.  C’est la vie.
However probability says after four failed attempts to convert means I’m probably due a win with the next one.  Here’s hoping anyway.  I’ll be honest, it would be a dream come true to see one of my stories on the silver screen.  It would do wonders for book sales.  And I would finally be able to hire a butler I’ve always craved.  Wow, I’m so grounded, it’s scary.  So if there are any Hollywood types reading this, give me a call, let’s do lunch.  🙂

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I don’t know if anyone saw the stand Anne Rice has been taking against cyber bullies and net rage.  She started a petition to have Amazon and other sites remove nasty and hateful reviews.  I’ve long lamented that it’s quite depressing reading the comments feed on any news story as it seems to be an excuse for people to trot out their hate and contempt for anything anyone does or achieve.  I swear the headline could be “The sky is blue” and within ten minutes the sky will be condemned for its connection to the political right or left or the NSA.  So I applaud Ms. Rice’s efforts attempt to clear up the online nasty reviews.  However, at the same time, I’m not sure how much it will help in the long run.  Whatever measures anyone takes to correct a problem, people will find a work around pretty quickly.
I don’t say this lightly or without personal experience.  A few years ago, some of my essays were syndicated on Yahoo.  Within a day there were 250 online comments.  Half of which were hateful or derogatory.  This didn’t include the personal emails I received of a similar tone.  Things got strange when ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN broke out a few years ago.  The book had been climbing the charts for several weeks, then Amazon highlighted as a book to buy and it ended up at the top of Amazon’s charts.  It stayed in Amazon’s top 100 books for six weeks or so.  It would have stayed there longer if things hadn’t gotten a little nasty.  Now, I know the lead character’s faults are polarizing with some readers.  So as much as I want everyone to love the book, I know not everyone will like it.  It’s the problem with any subjective work.  There’s no right or wrong answer.  There’s just opinion.  But some of the reviews were brutal, even libelous in some cases.  I didn’t think anyone could hate a book that much.  However, the strange part was seeing reviewers bullying other people who’d posted good reviews and telling them to take them down.  Some people did.  The reviews got weird in other directions.  In some cases it was obvious that trashing books was what they did from their review history.  In other cases, it was pretty obvious that some people were hiding their identities because the reviewer was XYZYZXC or something with no other review history.  It became clear in some cases that that person hiding their identities were other authors.  To Amazon’s credit, they took down some of the offending reviews—not at my behest but at the request of strangers who found certain reviews objectionable. Kinda lovely to see people do something nice for me.  However, the damage was done.  Sales of the book collapsed which in turn impacted revenue which in turn impacted my livelihood—and that’s a problem.  Also I withdrew.  I don’t think I spoke to anyone online or otherwise outside of Julie for six weeks.  I was quite ashamed of what I’d chosen to do with my life.  But I bounced back and got on with what was important to me—telling stories.
 Still after all that and other experiences, I support the petition but I don’t have much faith in any countermeasures.  The reason is simple—you can’t stop people from being dicks.  As much as I wish you could, you can’t.  Dickishness is a universal constant like gravity.  It’ll always be with us. 
I don’t know why people seem to go out of their way to vilify everything and everyone they disagree with and I won’t bother boring everyone with pop psychology.  I just know this online contempt has been growing over the last decade or so, and it’s depressing.  I find the level of intolerance and ignorance shown for another person’s beliefs while screaming bloody murder should anyone dare to challenge theirs truly saddening.  Being that angry all the time has to be exhausting for them.  However, like I say, dicks will be dicks and we can’t change that.
And hitting delete on cyber bullies will only serve to turn them into victims.  They’ll scream their free speech is being challenged and this will lead to more hateful outlets.
And as lame as this sounds, the only way to deal with the cyber bullies is to ignore them.  Let them scream and shout and spew their hatred and contempt.  Just don’t engage it.  Engaging them won’t diminish them.  It only emboldens them and draws more attention.  If no one listens and the more discerning readers filters them out for more reasoned commentary, all the hate in the world has no effect.  If the review read: the author is a whore who sleeps with dogs.  I don’t think many people are going to base their purchasing decision on remarks like that.
I know this is the approach used for dealing with unruly children, but that’s what we’re dealing with at the end of the day—immaturity expressed by people who don’t know any better—yet.

 

 

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