Simon Wood

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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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playlist-barrygruff-1I’m a big music freak and as I’ve done with my last couple of books, I’ve created a playlist for my heroine Zoë Sutton from THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY. Zoë’s playlist is pretty dark as she’s a troubled woman, not surprising considering her past problems and her present danger. This mix tape is the kind of thing her therapist would have her make to help her understand herself better. So here’s what I expect to find on her playlist:

1. “Hit me with your best shot” – Pat Benatar
2. “One way or another” – Blondie
3. “Missing” – Everything But The Girl
4. “Showdown” – ELO
5. “Tallyman” – Jeff Beck
6. “I’ve Been Waiting For A Girl Like You” – Foreigner
7. “Wicked Game” – Chris Isaak
8. “Bad Girls” – M.I.A.
9. “The First Cut Is The Deepest” – Cat Stevens
10. “Out of Control” – She Wants Revenge
11. “Hurt” – Johnny Cash
12. “Fox On The Run” – Sweet
13. “Baby Did A Bad Bad Thing” – Chris Issak
14. “Out of Control” – Hoobastank
15. “Died in your arms” – Cutting Crew

Readers of the book should recognize the significance of these songs and song titles, so if you have suggestions for Zoë, call them out. I’m sure Zoë will appreciate it. 🙂

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baby TOTGAI witnessed the birth of my sixteenth child a week last Sunday.  Although it’s my sixteenth baby, I’m just excited to see it as the first one.  THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY weighed in at 10oz and 8 inches long from head to toe.  Not a bad size and weight all things considered.  For an author, I don’t think there’s a smell like it.  It’s a combination of fresh paper and glue that hasn’t had the chance to breathe in the air.

Although I joke, bringing a book into the world isn’t much different from bringing a child into the world, although I won’t have to send it to college or pay for its wedding.  There’s the conception—that first spark of passion when the idea for the book is born.  The excitement builds as the story grows from an idea into a story and the page count swells.  It’s not long before it actually possesses a shape resembling the embryo manuscript.  The editing process refines its shape and it starts to resemble the story I wanted to make.  Then before I know it, it’s reached the end of its first trimester.

Then my baby enters a tricky stage as I search for a publisher and/or agent to assist with the birth.  This can be a long and treacherous route filled with disappointment and setbacks, but I always have faith regardless of the passage of time.  I know it has to happen.  It’s happened before.  And it does.  Someone shares my love for my book and offers a contract that carries my baby through to its final trimester.

TOTGAThis is the most nervous of times.  Everything looks sound enough, but I’ve experienced things going wrong.  Publishers can change their mind.  Circumstances can change.  And I have to keep a careful eye on developments.  But with little one, there were no such troubles.  Compared to some of my children (I’m looking at you WE ALL FALL DOWN), this book went to term with few problems.  It arrived on the day they told me.

Now that THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY is born—and did I mention it’s a fine looking kid—I still have a lot of work to do.  Like any proud father, I have to show this baby off.  Anyone and everyone who stops for more than two seconds is going to hear about how wonderful my baby is.  I know it may bore some, but I can’t help it.  I really love this one.  This isn’t to say that I like this one any better than the others.  Well, that’s what I tell my other books.

And what kind of father would I be if I didn’t break out the baby pictures?  So here’s a picture of baby THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY.

So it’s cigars all round and I hope you’ll enjoy the bambino as much as I do.

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This month’s Back Story piece centers on my recent release, CRESTFALLEN.

When I decided to write, I wanted to write PI novels like Raymond Chandler.  There were two problems with that plan—one, I didn’t know what a Private eye did and two, Raymond Chandler is a bloody good writer.  So I tended to steer clear of PI fiction, mainly for the latter reason.  The problem was I wasn’t Chandler.  I didn’t have his experiences or his world view.  I had my own and it was more in line with Hitchcock’s movies—ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.  It was me in a nutshell—and I’m happy with my nutshell. 

However, I still wanted to write pulpy PI stories and I wanted to create my “Marlowe” character.  I came up with Peter Crestfallen about a decade ago.  I tested the waters with a short story.  It sold very quickly and I wanted to keep going but I needed to do my research.  I signed up for a couple of classes in Sacramento—“How to become a PI” and “How to find out anything about anyone.” Even if I never wrote another PI story, I thought the classes would be good research for other novels and stories.

Both classes were run by a woman who was a PI in the greater Sacramento area for a couple of decades—and she was awesome.  Just like Marlowe, Spade, Archer, Hammer, etc., she ran a lone wolf PI agency, but if you’re imagining a leggy redhead with cleavage to drown a football team in, then think again.  In appearance, she had more in common with Miss Marple than VI Warshawski.   

She taught us the mechanics of what you had to do to become a licensed PI in California and how to build investigation hours and credits.  The “How to find out anything about anyone” was essentially a public records class.  She detailed how to track people and find them through public records and how to protect yourself against being traced.  This was all very interesting stuff and useful to me in my other books.  I’ve used several nuggets of information in a number of them over the years.  However, her personal experiences were worth the price of admission.  She talked about her career and how it wasn’t like the movies.  I liked how she was the “go to” person when it came to serving papers on the unserveables. She got to people that other process servers couldn’t reach.  She had some nice tricks for catching people out. Her story about tailing a client’s husband to strip clubs became the inspiration for CRESTFALLEN’S KINK.  A number of her other tales made their way into the stories in some form or another. 

I took the classes for story purposes, not knowing that Julie and I would become PIs ourselves a few years later, but not in the traditional sense.  We worked for an agency and started off as mystery shoppers before ending up going undercover in casinos in Nevada and California trying to unearth staff who were stealing from their employers.  This work is very different from the modern PI who tends to work on the behalf of defense lawyers—read David Corbett’s books for an idea.

Having done some PI work and talked to a few modern day PIs, I was a little worried that the classic PI we know and love ($50 a day plus expenses) doesn’t really exist, so I took comfort that there was someone out there gumshoeing it like Marlowe.  So I hope you’ll give the CRESTFALLEN stories a shot and if you buy a copy, let me know and I’ll send you an audio edition of CRESTFALLEN’S WIDOW just to ensure I pick you up as a client.  J

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NO SHOW’s Terry Sheffield is a bit of a hopeless romantic.  I mean the man crossed an ocean for love.  So naturally, he’s the kind of guy who’d make a mix tape (am I dating myself?) for that special girl in his life.  So based on his experiences, here’s what I expect to find on his NO SHOW playlist:

1.       Breakfast in America” – Supertramp
2.       Sara(h)” – Fleetwood Mac
3.       Ain’t No Sunshine (When She’s Gone)” – Bill Withers
4.       Wish You Were Here” – Pink Floyd
5.       Lies” – The Black Keys
6.       She’s Not There” – The Zombies
7.       Revenge” – Sparklehorse
8.       Hold Your Tongue” – Jump Little Children
9.       Cold As Ice” – Foreigner
10.   Rescue Me” – Fontella Bass
11.   American Woman” – Guess Who
12.   I Will Follow You Into The Dark” – Death Cab for Cutie
13.   Trouble” – Ray LaMontagne 
14.   Psycho Killer” – Talking Heads
15.   Oscar Mayer Bologna” – Daniel Bedingfield

Readers of the book should recognize the significance of these songs and song titles, so if you have suggestions for Terry, call them out.  I’m sure Terry will appreciate it.  🙂

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GOOD NEWS!! I’ve been sitting on this one for a while, but I am happy to announce that StoryHouse will be publishing two of my short storiesTHE FRAME MAKER and PATHFINDERas a special two-story ebook and audiobook.
THE FRAME MAKER was an Anthony Award Finalist in 2012 and PATHFINDER is a brand new tale.
It’ll be a fun showcase of my story it was discussed with the editor: THE FRAME MAKER is an Alfred Hitchcock Presents story and PATHFINDER could have been a Twilight Zone episode.
The book should be out at the end of spring.

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In my writerly life, I get a queasy feeling from time to time.  Different things can trigger it—a book signing, an autograph, a compliment, an advert, etc.  Usually, something nice anyway.  This time it was the cover art for the German version of PAYING THE PIPER.  A woozy feeling washed over me.  It’s a lovely cover but there was one thing wrong with it.  It had my name on it.
Oh, I wrote the book and there’s no mistake about that but it does feel weird to see my name on a book cover.  It somehow seems fraudulent.  We are talking about me being a writer.  This was never the plan.  I read books.  Someone like me doesn’t write them!
Maybe it’s the dyslexia talking.  It’s made me self conscious and given me a sense of unworthiness.  What could be more ludicrous than a dyslexic author? 
Yes, I know some of you will berate me for saying that but it’s the way I feel.
Naturally, being the paradoxical person that I am, I am also immensely proud of my books and stories.  I hope that I’ll keep writing for the rest of my life.  It’s what I want to do with my life.  See!  Paradoxical.  I never said this would make any sense.
I have a bookcase in my office filled with just my books and magazines featuring articles and stories I’ve written.  I look at it all and think, wow, I’m responsible for all that.  I also look at it and think, wow, I’m responsible for all that.  I think there’s been a terrible mistake.  Is there someone I can speak to about this? 
I suppose I’m a still a fanboy when it comes to books and I get excited by books and authors I admire, but when it comes to my books, I don’t believe I’m in their league.  It’s no different when I’ve seen my books in the bookstore. I see them on the shelf or display and I smile, but it’s quickly followed by a blush of embarrassment.
I suppose I’m too close to my work. I can’t view it the same rarefied air as I can with other people’s books. More than likely, most authors feel that way. I guess it’s because a book is like a house. I built it from the dirt up and while the rest of the world sees a house, I see all the difficulties I went through in its construction.
Objectivity is a bitch that way.
I’m not sure I’m making much sense with this admission. Mainly because I can’t quite put a finger the emotion, probably because I’m experiencing two of them at once—glee and embarrassment which are held in check by stupity. I blame being English. Boasting is an outfit that never quite fits. I don’t think my people have the shoulders for it.
I not sure there’s a cure for this aliment.  Dramamine isn’t going to cut it.  I know I’ve tried.  Time heals all wounds so it might be the cure I need—but for that I will have to keep on writing.  J

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Keen followers of this blog will know that THE FALL GUY and PAYING THE PIPER were snapped up for German translation last year.  Over the last few months, I’ve been working with two editing teams on the books and I’m happy to say they are both in production and have publication dates. 
The content hasn’t changed for either book but the titles have.  Slang and colloquialisms rarely travel.  THE FALL GUY is now Abwärtsfahrt, which translates to Downward Drive or Downfall Drive.  It’s a hard one to describe but you get where it’s going.  PAYING THE PIPER is now Die Abrechnung Des Kinderfänger, which is a little more literal as it translates to Paying the Kidnapper.
Obviously, a new book means cover art.  I hope you like them.  I know I do.



Abwärtsfahrt will be out at the end of April in paperback and as an eBook.  Die Abrechnung Des Kinderfänger will be out at the end of June in paperback, audio and as an eBook.  Do tell your German speaking friends to grab a copy or three.

Naturally, with a translation in a language I don’t speak, I have to put my faith in my translators that  they’ll do a good job and I won’t suffer like NewsRadio’s Jimmy James at his book reading.  This is every writer’s translation nightmare.  🙂


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I’m very happy to announce that the German language rights to my crime caper, THE FALL GUY, have been picked up for print, electronic and audio editions. It’s the story of Todd Collins. He’s failed in every job he’s ever undertaken, but that all changes when he backs his jalopy in a shiny, new Porsche belonging to a drug dealer. When the police stop the drug dealer for a broken taillight that Todd has caused and discover a cocaine shipment, a West Coast kingpin holds Todd responsible. On the run from organized crime, Todd discovers his true calling.

This story has gone from strength to strength in recent years.  It first started off life as a short story called FENDER BENDER.  A publisher liked the story so much that we build the concept for my short story collection around it for WORKING STIFFS.  The editor gave me one instruction: develop FENDER BENDER into a much larger story—and THE FALL GUY was born as a short novel. Author, Scott Nicholson, urged me to release it as a standalone piece and I’m in his debt because it took off an eBook and Comet Press picked it for a paperback release. So I’m especially pleased to see it get secure its first translation contract.

I don’t have a release date for the German edition, but I’m hoping it will be before the end of the year.  At the moment, translators are being auditioned for the job.  This is always interesting to see how a translator will bring the story to life in their native tongue.  I wish I was fluent in German to see how the story will be finessed from English to German.  One thing I’m pretty sure of is that the title will change.  All my translated books have come out with totally different titles.  ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN became ABGEZOCKT(aka Scorched or Burned in English) and the Turkish edition of WE ALL FALL DOWNcame out as DEATH SONG.  So I’m intrigued to know what THE FALL GUY becomes.  J

I don’t know what the future hold for this story, but I hope it keeps on growing.  I think Todd is owed that much.

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The inspiration for No Show began with a real life incident that happened fifteen years ago today.  When I came to the US, it was for love (yes, awww…).  I had met an American girl in Costa Rica and we hit it off.  We carried things on after Costa Rica.  Every few months we would meet up in a different country. After a couple of years of this, we decided to take things to the next stage and settle in the same country as husband and wife.  I was the one with the fewest attachments, so I made the decision to leave England for America.  I left my job, sold my house, reduced my possessions down to what I could pack into a couple of bags and jumped on a plane.

I arrived at San Francisco International airport very excited at the prospect of a new life in a new country.  I entered the arrivals lounge expecting to see Julie with a ‘Welcome to America’ sign or some such thing.  Instead I saw a sea of strangers’ faces.  Julie wasn’t there.  I was disappointed not to see her, but I knew Bay Area traffic could be rough and guessed she was stuck in it.  The smart thing was to wait in arrivals because she’d be there in a minute.

Then the minutes piled up and my imagination began to churn.  There was late and there was late.  Had she gotten cold feet and changed her mind?  It was possible.  We were taking a huge leap of faith.  Had she had an accident?  If she had, I had no way of finding out.  And regardless of the outcome, what was I going to do now?

And this was where things got a little tricky.  I hadn’t concerned myself with the minutia of such details as bringing her address or her phone number.  I didn’t need to worry about such things, as Julie was my guide in the US the same way I was her guide in the UK. 

Just as panic was sinking its teeth into me, Julie arrived an hour or so late and full of apologies for the hideous traffic.  I’d arrived on a day when three events were taking place at the same time in the city.

Crisis over.  Disaster averted.  OverdramaNoShow2tic imagination quelled.

Well, not quite.  Our missed connection taught me a valuable lesson—have a Plan B, because I hadn’t realized until that moment how carried away I was with the romance of what I was doing.  I suddenly became aware of how little homework I’d done for myself.  I didn’t know how America worked. 

The bigger question my overactive imagination kicked up was—what would I have done if Julie hadn’t turned up.  Got the next flight home?  Looked for her?  As these thoughts piled up on each other, I saw how unprepared I was for my new life.  I’d put all my faith in Julie and if something had happened to her, I was a lost.  Was this naïve of me?  Yes, but we take our eye off the ball sometimes.

When it comes to my books, I like to put characters in difficult circumstances.  Naturally, my thoughts came back to my first day in the US.  No Show gave me the chance to play with my neurosis and the paranoia of that day and explore the worst possible outcome—my wife going missing.

As for real life, Julie and I will have been married fifteen years at the end of this year and she’s yet to go missing on me.

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