Simon Wood

Posts Tagged: guest blog

Wood-DeceptivePractices-21703-CV-FT-C3r5My DECEPTIVE PRACTICES blog tour has taken me far and wide…cyber speaking.  Here’s some of the places it’s taken me to.  Please enjoy!

Jungle Red Writers – I discuss looking for strange in the world.

Femme Fatales – I discuss having a curiosity for the weird.

Mystery Readers International – I discuss the new book and divine intervention.

The Big Thrill – an interview.

Authornomics – an interview.

Donna Warner – I discuss being a bit of a Walter Mitty.

Just Talking Books – Review!

Book Likes – Review!

Categories: book of the month new book shelf life

Read more

Today I’m turning my blog over to my good chum, Dana Cameron.  We’ve known each other a long time since our first books came out the same year and we did a reading at Bouchercon.  So it gives me great pleasure to give her a little space to discuss her latest.  Take it away, Dana!

Hellbender front coverLike my esteemed blog host, I draw a lot of my writing from my experiences, in particular, travel, museums, and archaeology.  So I figured I’d share a few elements of my new Fangborn book, Hellbender, that had their roots in my life.

For example, I once had a very “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” day in Istanbul.  We were exploring the Old City with a very knowledgeable tour guide.  At one Greek Orthodox church, the priest and guide offered me some of the water from the holy spring—to drink.  Now, I’m usually pretty careful about my water when I travel, and was caught between being a good guest and not being imprudent.  I drank it, under their approving looks, and surrounded by wonderful ancient icons.  The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering through ancient sites, and the Basilica Cistern (where they, among other things, filmed “From Russia with Love”), with a bottle of holy water in my pocket.  A very touristy moment in some ways, but as a writer, all I could think was:  This is totally going into a book.

Another example.  Hellbender starts in Kanazawa, Japan, where Pack of Strays left off, mostly because of the wonderful things I saw on that trip.  One experience made a particular impression on me:  We observed a master calligrapher in action.  Now, I fooled around with calligraphy in high school, because I loved the pen, ink, nibs, and the different fonts, and I mention that only because it means I had a very approximate idea how much work goes into Western calligraphy, which is a whole world away from traditional Japanese calligraphy.  Watching this calligrapher work was enthralling, and the focus she was able to exert was a privilege to observe.  She said that she waits for her inspiration while grinding the ink at the start of the day, and sometimes, she spends all day grinding ink.  Every artist, every writer has been there.  And I have the piece she made for me, in a very traditional style:  it reads monogatari or “narrative.”  I put a calligrapher into Hellbender, but with a very special twist to her work.

The last of many elements I cadged from real life for my work was from Alaska.  Many of you will remember the Anchorage Bouchercon in 2007; there was a program to fly writers into the bush, to small villages, to talk to school students about writing. I was lucky enough to participate, and only found out when I was en route that no one wanted to tell me that I was flying into “one of the ten most dangerous airstrips in Alaska.”  Just hearing those words made me want to write something, so I finally got to use it to move Zoe en route from Japan back to Boston.  There’s something about being in the middle of that wilderness, in a very small plane, that inspired a lot of emotion on the way in (mostly fear), but by the time I left, I was so excited about the plane ride that the pilot circled the little village so I could take pictures from above.

DanaCameronBio:  Dana Cameron can’t help mixing in a little history into her fiction.  Drawing from her expertise in archaeology, Dana’s work (including traditional mystery, noir, urban fantasy, historical fiction, and thrillers) has won multiple Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity Awards and earned an Edgar Award nomination. Her third Fangborn novel, Hellbender, will be published in March 2015 by 47North.  Her most recent Fangborn short story is a Sherlockian pastiche; “The Curious Case of Miss Amelia Vernet.”  Her story, “The Sun, The Moon, and The Stars,” featuring Pam Ravenscroft from Charlaine Harris’s acclaimed Sookie Stackhouse mysteries, appears in Dead But Not Forgotten: Stories from the World of Sookie Stackhouse.   WWW.danacameron.com

Categories: Uncategorized

Read more

It’s my birthday so I’m taking a day off and handing SHELF LIFE over to my short story nemesis, Dana Cameron.  She’s got a new book out tomorrow so here’s a little bit about it.  Take it away, Dana.

**warning:  Contains spoilers if you haven’t read Seven Kinds of Hell**

Pack of Strays is the second book in my Fangborn series of urban fantasy adventures.  A little background:  Seven Kinds of Hell introduces Zoe Miller, a young archaeologist with serious personal problems; one of them is that she fears she’s going crazy when she feels flashes of uncontrollable violence.  She eventually learns that she is not only a werewolf, but Fangborn, one of a family of werewolves, vampires, and oracles devoted secretly to protecting humankind from evil.  Some of the Fangborn want to remain hidden from humanity but a large minority want to Identify themselves as supernatural creatures, possibly to rule humankind.  Zoe ends up on the run with werewolf PI Gerry Steuben and his psychiatrist sister (a vampire), Claudia Steuben (introduced in the short story, “The Night Things Changed”).  While she tries to come to terms with the realization that she is a werewolf—and get a handle on her abilities—she must track down certain mystical artifacts that are the ransom for her kidnapped cousin, Danny.  This leads to a showdown between many powerful factions, including a US senator, a Russian kidnapper, and her Fangborn Cousins.

While Seven Kinds of Hell was about Zoe learning that she is a werewolf, in Pack of Strays, she’s using her archaeological skill to unravel the Fangborn past.  Zoe’s discovering that not being raised within a Fangborn family actually gives her perspective on their most deeply-held beliefs, some of which are disastrously starting to unravel.  She’s also on a mission to learn about her own past and because of the bracelet that Pandora’s box embedded into her wrist, she’s prey to visions that drive her to go after more and more powerful artifacts.  She’s showing abilities no werewolf—no Fangborn—has, and that’s making her the target of the Order of Nicomedia (first introduced in “The Serpent’s Tale”), who are dedicated to eradicating the Fangborn altogether.  She learns that her friends, including her lover Will, believe that she’s abandoned them and is being driven to evil by the bracelet.  Fangborn politics and the Order’s tactics are combining in the worst way, bringing the Fangborn closer and closer to being revealed to humanity.

What I love about writing this series as well as the seven (so far!) short stories set in this ‘verse is that I get to play with different periods of history and how the Fangborn might have behaved throughout time.  Whenever I visit museums and historical sites, I am always on the lookout for images of wolves, snakes (my vampires have a serpentine aspect), or ravens (symbolic of my oracles), playing with how the Fangborn might have fit into a particular culture.  Studying folklore and mythology from all over the world lets me find ways to suggest that the Fangborn attempts to cover their tracks failed, and being observed with their shape-shifting abilities, found themselves incorporated into local cultural traditions.  So far, I’ve tackled Boston during the Second World War, medieval England, and the ancient Olympic games. 

The other thing I adore is giving Zoe the chance to show what archaeological reasoning can do.  She may not be a very good archaeologist—in Strays, we see her stealing artifacts, partly to keep them out of the hands of the Order but mostly because the bracelet is driving her to accumulate more of them—but she makes the most of the skills she has.  Actually, Zoe makes the most of everything she has, and that’s one of the reasons I keep challenging her—and she keeps challenging me.

Bio: Dana Cameron can’t help mixing in a little history into her fiction. Drawing from her expertise in archaeology, Dana’s work (including traditional mystery, noir, urban fantasy, thriller, and historical tales) has won multiple Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity Awards and earned an Edgar Award nomination. Her second Fangborn novel, PACK OF STRAYS will be published April 15, 2014 by 47North.  A Fangborn short story, “The God’s Games” appears in Games Creatures Play and Dana’s story, “The Sun, The Moon, and The Stars,” featuring Pam Ravenscroft from Charlaine Harris’s acclaimed Sookie Stackhouse mysteries, will appear in Dead But Not Forgotten: Stories from the World of Sookie Stackhouse in May. 

           

Categories: shelf life

Read more

Today is a guest post from New  York Times bestselling author Rebecca Cantrell.  She’s fun, talented and a good friend–or so she tells me.  Anyway, she’s here to tell us what a terrible person she is.
 
What are my worst writing habits?
Someone recently asked me about my worst habits as an author. Sadly, I have too many to list here, but I decided to give you the top five that would be considered criminal in writer’s court, punishable by not getting as much writing done as I think I should. Here are the top 5, in reverse order. Try not to be too shocked.
5. Worrying about deadlines or sales or anything else. It’s a terrible waste of time, very neurotic. And I do it anyway. But I’m trying to stop. I am. Let me just check my numbers on Amazon and then I’ll be right back.
4. Remembering only the bad reviews. My first novel, A Trace of Smoke, got almost uniformly great reviews, including starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews, Publisher’s Weekly, and Library Journal. Do I remember quotes from them? No. But four years after it came out I can still recite all the damning bits from the ‘mixed’ New York Times review. Obviously, this is a trend that must be reversed. I must set about memorizing the good reviews and blurbs and become positively insufferable.
3. Not backing things up. I do back up my work. But not my iPhone. Not when I’m traveling. This one ranks so high because a couple of gallons of the Chesapeake Bay killed my iPhone with all my pictures from my New York tour on it. I should have known better. I did know better. And I got punished for it. So, now I back up more. In fact, I just went and backed something up now.
2. Over-researching. My books often have historical elements, so I have to do a lot of research. But I overdo it because it’s just plain fascinating. I find out tons of things I don’t really need to know to finish the book. For example, I have a scene with Hitler in it in A Night of Long Knives. I read tons of diary entries of people who were at that event, bits from the Nuremberg trial, historical analyses, etc. I compiled them all and picked out what I needed for my scene. That should have been enough. But I kept going. I call it the “what would Hitler smoke?” syndrome. He’s not smoking in the scene, so I don’t need to know it. But I do. In fact, that’s a trick question. Hitler was a nonsmoker. (hey, I did get to use that bit of research somewhere!)
1. Spending too much time on the Internet. Sure, I can pretend that some of it’s promotion and some of it even is, but I think I’d get a lot more done if I moved to a remote island with no Internet connectivity.  Wait, I did live on a remote island. It didn’t help. The Internet was there, too.
What are your writer’s crimes? Reader’s crimes?
 

 

 

Categories: shelf life

Read more

Today’s bit is a guest spot from Dana Cameron. Dana and I have been good chums for years so that’s why I’m entrusting Simon Sez over to her. She’s also the proud mother of a brand new book, Seven Kinds of Hell.

Got Imagination?

By Dana Cameron

 
When I was growing up, I thought briefly about becoming a writer, but ultimately decided against it.  Because I wasn’t interested in getting into bar fights or running with the bulls, I figured I would never make it.  So, at the tender age of six or seven or eight, I put that dream aside and shortly thereafter was bitten by the archaeology bug.  I think about that now, and I’m struck by two things.  One is how pervasive the idea of the Hemingway-esque writer must be in American culture for a young kid to imagine that’s how writers write.  It would be years until I got another glimpse of the writing life, courtesy of Louisa May Alcott and Jo March.  The other thing I realized is that I put the idea of writing aside because I was pretty sure I had no imagination. 

Archaeologists make a habit of reconstructing lives from trash, walking around in the shoes of people who’ve been dead for hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of years.  But that’s just scientifically-informed speculation, based on hard data—right? 

I still get uncomfortable considering the notion of imagination.  But after having written six mystery novels, it became quite clear that I wasn’t writing biography or field reports, so something else had to be going on.  And when I started writing about werewolves and vampires and oracles (albeit with some archaeology and history thrown in), it became even more apparent I wasn’t writing non-fiction.  These creatures weren’t in my reference books or and didn’t appear in my data collections.  They had to come from somewhere else.  And the books and stories had my name on them, so…

Imagination was still a mystery.

Walking down my street a couple of years back, I happened to notice what looked like a chunk of human skull perched on a rock outcrop.  My first thought was, jeez, whoever that belonged to had a head the size of a watermelon!  Then my second thought was, okay, how did that chunk of skull get there?  And it’s kinda flat to be a cranium.  Then, oh, it’s a dried out piece of pumpkin, left here from the autumnal pumpkin-smashing rites.  Then I felt very stupid.  Of course it was more likely a piece of bark or pumpkin and not a human skull.

Well, yeah, more likely.  Occam’s razor and all that.  And that’s when it struck me.  It would have been far more interesting if it had been a human skull, far more interesting to ask how the skull might have arrived there, why no one had noticed it, etc. 

That was my first insight into what imagination might be.  Not grand inspirations from on high, not a divine gift, not the touch of the Muse (pick a Muse, any muse).  I think the key to imagination might be not immediately squelching the first notion that pops into your head.

It’s going with that first weird thought and not censoring your questions about it, or your responses to it, at least not until you’re at the editing stage.  Just don’t trample the odd way you happen to see things at first, don’t squelch that inspiration.  There’s plenty of time for logic later. 

Dana’s 411:

Whether writing noir, historical fiction, urban fantasy, thriller, or traditional mystery, Dana Cameron draws from her expertise in archaeology. Her fiction (including several Fangborn stories) has won multiple Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity Awards and earned an Edgar Award nomination. The first of three novels set in the Fangborn ‘verse, Seven Kinds of Hell, will be released March 12 by 47North. Dana lives in Massachusetts with her husband and benevolent feline overlords.

Categories: shelf life

Read more

Today’s bit is a guest spot from Dana Cameron. Dana and I have been good chums for years so that’s why I’m entrusting Simon Sez over to her. She’s also the proud mother of a brand new book, Seven Kinds of Hell.

Got Imagination?

By Dana Cameron

 
When I was growing up, I thought briefly about becoming a writer, but ultimately decided against it.  Because I wasn’t interested in getting into bar fights or running with the bulls, I figured I would never make it.  So, at the tender age of six or seven or eight, I put that dream aside and shortly thereafter was bitten by the archaeology bug.  I think about that now, and I’m struck by two things.  One is how pervasive the idea of the Hemingway-esque writer must be in American culture for a young kid to imagine that’s how writers write.  It would be years until I got another glimpse of the writing life, courtesy of Louisa May Alcott and Jo March.  The other thing I realized is that I put the idea of writing aside because I was pretty sure I had no imagination. 

Archaeologists make a habit of reconstructing lives from trash, walking around in the shoes of people who’ve been dead for hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of years.  But that’s just scientifically-informed speculation, based on hard data—right? 

I still get uncomfortable considering the notion of imagination.  But after having written six mystery novels, it became quite clear that I wasn’t writing biography or field reports, so something else had to be going on.  And when I started writing about werewolves and vampires and oracles (albeit with some archaeology and history thrown in), it became even more apparent I wasn’t writing non-fiction.  These creatures weren’t in my reference books or and didn’t appear in my data collections.  They had to come from somewhere else.  And the books and stories had my name on them, so…

Imagination was still a mystery.

Walking down my street a couple of years back, I happened to notice what looked like a chunk of human skull perched on a rock outcrop.  My first thought was, jeez, whoever that belonged to had a head the size of a watermelon!  Then my second thought was, okay, how did that chunk of skull get there?  And it’s kinda flat to be a cranium.  Then, oh, it’s a dried out piece of pumpkin, left here from the autumnal pumpkin-smashing rites.  Then I felt very stupid.  Of course it was more likely a piece of bark or pumpkin and not a human skull.

Well, yeah, more likely.  Occam’s razor and all that.  And that’s when it struck me.  It would have been far more interesting if it had been a human skull, far more interesting to ask how the skull might have arrived there, why no one had noticed it, etc. 

That was my first insight into what imagination might be.  Not grand inspirations from on high, not a divine gift, not the touch of the Muse (pick a Muse, any muse).  I think the key to imagination might be not immediately squelching the first notion that pops into your head.

It’s going with that first weird thought and not censoring your questions about it, or your responses to it, at least not until you’re at the editing stage.  Just don’t trample the odd way you happen to see things at first, don’t squelch that inspiration.  There’s plenty of time for logic later. 

Dana’s 411:

Whether writing noir, historical fiction, urban fantasy, thriller, or traditional mystery, Dana Cameron draws from her expertise in archaeology. Her fiction (including several Fangborn stories) has won multiple Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity Awards and earned an Edgar Award nomination. The first of three novels set in the Fangborn ‘verse, Seven Kinds of Hell, will be released March 12 by 47North. Dana lives in Massachusetts with her husband and benevolent feline overlords.

Categories: shelf life

Read more

I have a few pieces floating around at the moment that you might not have come across, but are worth your time.

CrimeSpree Magazine’s: 5 Books/Songs/Films that Changed My Life
The title says it all and CrimeSpree asked my what things changed my life. The tough part was finding just five books, songs and films that have influenced.

Kindle Daily Spot:
Amazon asked me for a piece that described me as a person and a writer. Chaos Theory was the simple answer. 🙂

Mysteries in Paradise reviewed ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN and they liked it. Read the review here.

Audible.com brought out HOT SEAT, book 2 in the Aidy Westlake series, came out on Audio and it picked up a nice review over at Book ‘Em Mysteries.

And talking of all things, audio book, my supernatural crime thriller, ROAD RASH, is also available from Audible.com.

Still on the review front, Toxic Graveyard gave THE FALL GUY a great write up. Read it here.

Enjoy!

Categories: Uncategorized

Read more

I’ve known or e-known Mark Terry for a long time. He’s a super writer who has been very supportive to me and I thought it was time I returned the favor and offer him a guest spot to talk about his latest.

On May 2, 2011, a U.S. Navy Seal team found and killed bin Laden in Pakistan.

My new novel, THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS, starts with a U.S. raid on an al-Qaeda cell in Pakistan.

As we know, there’s been a fair amount of question about why we didn’t trust Pakistan enough to tell them we’d located bin Laden.

In the very first line of the new novel, a rookie FBI agent asks one of the lead agents on the raid, “Who of these guys do you trust?” Referring to the Pakistani cops and ISI agents they were conducting the raid with. In fact, a fairly significant part of the plot of the novel involves the question of exactly who in the Pakistani government knew what when.

Wow, Mark, pat yourself on the back, you must really be an expert on these things.

Ahem. Well, I don’t know about expert. I’m not even sure knowledgeable is the right word. How about: informed.

It’s not been a huge secret that the U.S.’s relationship with Pakistan has been rather tenuous in regards to fighting al-Qaeda and that we (meaning the U.S. government and military) have a great many doubts about who they can trust in this.

So I got that right, did my reading, paid attention.

Hell, I got lucky. When you write novels that reflect real-life events, you’re gambling that real life doesn’t change while you’re doing the writing. John Sandford wrote some wonderful novels about a computer hacker/painter/thief, but it’s tough to write about computers without it seeming stale by the time the book gets published. Dick Francis wrote a novel about computers back in the 1980s that’s pretty much unreadable now. I wrote one about computers, DIRTY DEEDS, and people have asked me why I didn’t follow up, and although there are a lot of answers to that question, one answer is: it’s too hard to write relevant fiction about computer hackers. It moves too fast.

So I’m more than happy to accept any accolades about the “timeliness” of my fiction, while still happily muttering to myself, “Thank God I didn’t write it about bin Laden.”

I’m sure that when the news of bin Laden’s assassination came out, you could hear a few hundred screams of thriller authors who were 50,000 words into a novel about hunting down bin Laden.

Yeah, I dodged that bullet.

I got lucky.

How about you? Ever finished a manuscript only to find it mirrors real life too well (or not enough?) Or that other doorway to hell, finish off your manuscript then have a bestselling author like Stephen King or John Grisham come out with a novel with a very, very similar plot?

Yours Luckily,
Mark Terry

Categories: Uncategorized

Read more

That’s the question The Jungle Red Writers ask during my interview. Look at the trouble I get myself into when I write a book and a movie at the same time. In other places, Murder She Writes host a guest blog in connection with Lowlifes and the mistakes people make. Leave a comment over at Murder She Writes and you have a chance at winning a copy of Lowlifes.

Categories: Uncategorized

Read more