Simon Wood

Posts Tagged: bookshelf

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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Mini-golf plays a part in NO SHOW.  It’s not something you expect to see in a mystery novel, but if I’m anything, it’s unconventional.

I have no interest in traditional golf, but I do love mini-golf!  It’s where Indiana Jones meets the game, making it a far superior game than ordinary golf.  Any idiot with a club can bang a ball 200 yards across an open field, but it takes real skill to get a ball in the hole after getting it through a windmill or around a castle.
Mini-golf was something I played as a wee one and stopped playing once my voice broke.  That changed when I moved to the US, where I found mini-golf is a staple of every kiddie arcade I came across.  One of the things about living away from home is nostalgia kicks in because you’ve yet to develop any touchstones in your new country, so you turn to the familiar and the comforting.  For me, my nostalgic touchstone was mini-golf.  
Since rediscovering my love of mini-golf, I’ve become somewhat of a connoisseur of mini-golf courses and Julie and I make a point of playing it wherever we travel.  Some of the standouts for us have been a “glow in the dark” course in Hawaii, a course on the edge of a graveyard in New Zealand and probably my favorite, a technically challenging course with actual water features in Seattle. 

The one course that really struck a chord with me was a gold-mine themed course outside of Sacramento which was partially subterranean for several holes.  Sadly, it closed down a few years ago and I don’t know if it even still stands.  I hope so, because it formed the basis of The Gold Rush, which is the fictional course that’s featured in NO SHOW and I’d love to get some photos of it for my records.

Some authors have book signings at stores.  I’m thinking I should have them at a mini-golf course.  If I did, would you want to play a round with me?  🙂

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Edenville is the fictional Californian city created for Terry Sheffield in NO SHOW. But while Edenville is fictional, it does have its roots in the real world, so here’s a photo tour of Edenville and a few of it’s landmarks.

This is downtown Edenville

The Dam at Lake Solano

Lake Solano and the scene of a grizzly crime


The Boat Ramp at Lake Solano and where the police and coroner gather

Solano Dam Road — Terry’s dark road

If you think you recognize the town, let me know and I might just give you a prize if you’re right.  🙂

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HOT SEAT, the second in the Aidy Westlake mysteries is in the bag. Not only am I thinking about the books, but I’m thinking about some storylines for some novellas featuring Aidy. I think it would be fun to write short and intense adventures featuring, Aidy, sprint races if you will.

When it comes to new stories, I’m not short on source material for ideas. The paddock was always a great place for rumor, gossip and urban legend. And I haven’t forgotten what I heard and saw from my time. The great thing about writing fiction is it doesn’t matter if any of the colorful on and off track exploits I heard and witnessed are true or not, because I can take those scenarios and twist and turn them into mysteries.

Another area for me to mine is the past. I love reading autobiographies and biographies about drivers and teams. I always find something in every book. A reference to an incident or an event will stop me in my tracks and make me wonder how that incident would be handled now. For example: In 1958, Juan Fangio was kidnapped Castro’s rebel forces before the Cuban Grand Prix. That’s an amazing story that you don’t hear much about. Transpose that to today. How would the kidnapping of Sebastian Vettel be handled now? I don’t know, but it would make an interesting book, wouldn’t it? It’s not always a big story like Fangio’s kidnapping that will get my engine revving. Even a passing remark or anecdote will catch my attention. All I’m looking for is a motive for someone to commit a crime. I’ll come up with the means and the opportunity.

There’s a lot of stories that can be told about the motor racing world. You just have to clear away the grease to find them. 🙂

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With the Aidy Westlake books, I’ve tried to incorporate a lot my racing experiences into the books because they’re interesting, funny, dangerous or scary. For HOT SEAT, I used played off something that was both dangerous and scary and used it as a significant element of the book.

Very few things scared me when I used to race. That wasn’t to say I was nervous, apprehensive and a tad shaky most of the time. But I can honestly say I was truly frightened to the point of fearing for my life only a handful of times. The absolute number one fear inducing occurrence was something I would have endure on a semi regular basis and it involved high speeds without moving. It meant putting my racecar on a rolling road.

If you’re not sure what a rolling road is, it’s essentially a treadmill for cars. The car’s power wheels sit on a pair of rollers and they keep the car stationary while the car’s wheels are traveling at speed.

I would have to take my car to a rolling road to check the car performance or to examine a fault. The car would sit on the rolling roll while the car would be hooked up to all this diagnostic equipment. The place I used to visit looked like an ER for cars.

This all seems pretty innoxious until you have to put theory into practice. First there’s an issue with the car’s weight and power. A normal car is heavy enough to remain seated on the rollers. That’s a different story when it comes to a single seater racecar. It doesn’t weigh a lot and it has relatively speaking a lot of power. So its light as feather status means the car will fly out of the rollers if the car isn’t tied down. So to cure the problem, my car had to be held in place by fixing haulage straps to my car and to the steel structure of the building. So my car would be traveling at 100mph held in place with a pair of straps. I didn’t envy the idiot who be driving the car. Excuse me, that’ll be who? Me? Why me? Don’t you have people for that? Really, I’m the one who fits in the car. Okay then. I’ll bloody do it then.

As they guy who ran the rolling road company said, “You won’t get me in one of those deathtraps.” So encouraging.

So I would have to get the car up to speeds of a 100mph. Before I even got anywhere close to those speeds, the car would be fighting against the straps, threatening to breaks its bonds and make a dash for it. Except there’s nowhere for the car to run. I’m inside a building with a solid brick wall ten feet in front of me to cushion the impact should the car escape. I didn’t see the point of putting my safety harness on. If the car hit the wall at a 100mph, I’d be Simon-shaped puddle. Because a single seater racecar has no fan to cooler it, air blast fans were aimed at the car and me to cool it down, but I still managed to sweat like a whore in church despite the chill.

The car never broke free, but my imagination foresaw the carnage and played it to me every second I was at the wheel. I swear that damned brick wall used to grin at me. Who would have thought traveling without moving could be so scary.

I won’t tell you how I’ve used rolling roads in HOT SEAT. You’ll have to read the book to find out. 🙂

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My bookshelf feature is back for the month of July because I’m pleased and proud to announce that the second of the Aidy Westlake mysteries, HOT SEAT, is out in the US.

Over the month, I’ll share history and background on the book. In the meantime, here’s a little about the book itself.

Things are looking good for Aidy Westlake. He’s Pit Lane magazine’s Young Driver of the Year, which has earned him a drive in the European Saloon Car Championship. But his good fortune ends at a race car show when he discovers Jason Gates, a mechanic from a rival team, with his throat cut. The murder sets off a disturbing chain reaction – someone is breaking the rules in the ranks of saloon car racing, on and off the track.

“Racing scenes enliven the action as Aidy tries to extricate himself from trouble by trapping a killer.”
~Publisher’s Weekly
“You can’t stop reading.”
“Watch Aidy get into one jam after the next.”

The book should be in bookstores across America and Canada. It has been available in the UK since late March. For direct links to some of the stores carrying the book, pop over to the website.

If you’d like an autographed copy from me, you can pick up a copy from my website bookstore. If you order a copy of HOT SEAT.

Thanks and I hope you’ll pick up a copy of the book. I think you’ll like it. 🙂

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DID NOT FINISH is now out in paperback in the US. It’s the first book in the Aidy Westlake mystery series set in the high-octane world of motor racing.

When Derek Deacon threatens to kill Alex Fanning, his championship rival, rookie driver Aidy Westlake doesn’t put much stock in it – it’s typical of the intense competitiveness and aggression in their world. But when Fanning dies after making contact with Deacon’s car during a race, a conspiracy ensues: the TV coverage is edited and the police wind up the investigation without interviewing witnesses. Compelled to prove Deacon is the murderer, Aidy pushes for the truth and is drawn into a world of fraud, organized crime and murder.

Best places to pick up a copy Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Now it’s in a more wallet friendly edition, I hope you’ll pick a copy up.

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Except for avoiding the color green in all its guises, I’m not very superstitious. I’ll walk under ladders, cross a black cat’s path and swim less than an hour after eating. Daring, that’s me. But I’m horrifically superstitious when it comes to writing. I think it comes down to things that are important to me. I was like this when I raced cars. Interchangeable parts weren’t interchangeable. Once a wheel was used on the front right side, it always stayed on the front right side until it was replaced. Rose joints got screwed into the same push rods. Bolts held on the same pieces of suspension. I labeled everything so it wouldn’t get mixed up. I apply the same irrationalities to writing, but I feel I’ve gone the extra mile. Like racing, writing “profession” has turned me into a neurotic basket case. Writing is such a subjective world where there is no right and wrong that to tempt fate is folly. Well, that’s my take on it anyway.

I feel the pressure of the writing gods on me daily. They watch me all time and it doesn’t take much to tick them off and make them punish me with a rejection slip. So I’m careful about what I do.

I cross my fingers when I open emails and letters from editors and magazines. Apparently, by crossing my fingers, the contents of the response will change. Considering that my acceptance to rejection ratio is 1 to 5, this method isn’t that successful, but I have to look on the bright side. My acceptance rate could be a lot worse if I didn’t cross my fingers. Pick the bones out of that, Professor Stephen Hawking.

My biggest superstition is that I don’t throw away my novel manuscripts. Hold on a sec. Julie’s telling me to tell the truth. Okay, I don’t just not throw away the manuscripts, I don’t throw away the drafts, from the first to the last. I do eventually, but not until the book is on the bookshelves in the stores. Until then, I live in a tinderbox of potential so as not to tempt fate. Now, this isn’t just an irrational fear. Truly, it isn’t. I have proof to back that one up. Twice, not once, but twice, I’ve gathered up the manuscript, said to myself, “won’t be needing this again,” and tossed it in the recycle bin only to learn a few days later that the publisher has gone bust or decided not to publish. My cockiness led to my downfall. So now I don’t throw out my manuscripts. As soon as I see my book safe and sound on a bookshelf, then I can release my manuscripts to recycle heaven.

HOT SEAT came out in the UK the other week, so keeping to tradition, I round-filed the drafts and felt pretty good about it. Fate’s cruel hand had been avoided, yet again.

There’s a lot of anxiety in a writer’s life—well, there is mine, and most of it is self-inflicted—because the writing world is an unpredictable one. Luck seems to feature in one’s success. How many NY Times bestsellers were on the verge of giving up after a million rejections, but then gave it one more shot and everything changed? Plenty. Superstition is irrational, but so is writing. It’s a crazy profession, so superstition is warranted, and you’ll forgive me if I hang on to mine.

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