Simon Wood

Posts Tagged: scrubs

It’s Halloween and I’d be amiss if I didn’t offer up some of my Halloween scares for you to enjoy this all hallows eve.

In THE SCRUBS, James Jeter, the notorious serial killer with a sixth sense, holds court inside London’s Wormwood Scrubs Prison. He’s the focus of the “North Wing Project.” Under the influence of a hallucinogen, Jeter can create an alternative world known as “The Rift” containing the souls of his victims.

Pardons are on offer to inmates who’ll enter The Rift. Michael Keeler has nothing to lose and little to live for. He’s sent into The Rift to learn the identity of Jeter’s last victim.

It’s a mission where the guilty can be redeemed, but at a price…

 

In DRAGGED INTO DARKNESS, people spend their entire lives staving off the dark — but no matter the measures taken, black paths and shadowy pits lurk in the unlikeliest of places, waiting to pull the unwary into the depths of despair. These eleven tales offer a morbid sampling of the many forms and fashions of terror — from the subtle prickling of neck hairs at the kiss of a ghostly breeze to the raw-throated screams and feverish clawing of a desperate fight for survival. Witness eleven people torn from their ordinary lives and cast into twisted realities that test their sanity, faith, and very will to live… A pilot must land a crippled aircraft on an impossible runway… A doctor feels far too much sympathy for his deformed patients… A schoolgirl’s secret contract could cost her mother’s soul… A woman whose pack rat obsessions hide the obscene… For these and seven others, the darkness comes from within and without, subtle, deadly…and relentless.

Road-Rash-500In ROAD RASH, Straley might think his life is cursed, but it doesn’t compare to what lies ahead of him on life’s highway. He’s on the run with the proceeds of a botched bank robbery. It’s all he has. His crew is dead and his getaway car just died on him. He’s on foot with the cash when he comes across a two-car pileup. There’s no saving the drivers, but he can save himself and steals one of the wrecked cars. But he boosts the wrong set of wheels. Within an hour of driving off, he develops a rash that eats away at his flesh. No doctor can help him–only the car’s original owner. If Straley wants his skin back, he must journey on the road to redemption, which ends in the heart of Central America.

I hope I’ve given you something to keep you busy this Halloween. 🙂

 

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It’s Halloween this month, so I went with a spooky choice as my Book of the Month pick—THE SCRUBS.  This is also a title of mine which has fallen between the cracks with readers and I hope you will take the time to check it out.  I think you’ll find it worth your time.

The Scrubs is what people commonly call Wormwood Scrubs prison, located in west London. It’s an unusual name for a prison, but not as unusual as some in Britain. In Manchester, you’ll find Strangeways prison (although, it has been renamed in recent years because of its bad image). I do like how British prisons have weird names whereas American prisons sound like vacation getaways. Pelican Bay. San Quentin. Soledad. It seems like cruel and unusual punishment to be incarcerated in a place that sounds so idyllic, but I digress.
Wormwood Scrubs was built in the Victorian era and is a typical piece of neo-gothic architecture. The prison strongly resembles a fortress in some ways, except it keeps people in and not out. It’s not very big as prisons go. Less than fifteen hundred people call it home. If you ever take a trip on a Central Line train of the London Underground system, you’ll see the prison as you ride through Acton. If anyone has watched the original version of The Italian Job with Michael Caine, the prison he’s released from is Wormwood Scrubs. But any relationship between the real life prison and the one contained within these pages are purely fictional. I took the prison’s name and its location and ignored everything else.

Anyway, I stopped thinking about Wormwood Scrubs in terms of a name of a prison and started thinking about what the words meant. This is a habit with me. I think about words we all take for granted and break them down. Too often we take words at face value and forget their meanings. Places were named for a reason, not by chance. So I forgot the prison identity and just wondered about Wormwood scrubs. Wormwood is an herbaceous plant. It’s a key ingredient of absinthe. Wormwood oil is poisonous, considered psychoactive and possibly addictive. Wow, what a herb! The word scrubs bolts on nicely onto wormwood. A scrub area or scrubland is an area of stunted vegetation. I wondered whether Wormwood Scrubs the prison had been built on an area of scrubland covered with wormwood.

I liked the concept of a prison built on top of an area covered in a poisonous, psychotropic and addictive plant. It’s just asking for trouble. All we need is a psychotic prisoner with special powers and we’ve got ourselves a story!
I have to admit that THE SCRUBS is a guilty pleasure. It started out as a short story but kept getting bigger as I got caught up in creating this alternate universe for this prison and its inmates. And it’s not going to stop here. They’ll be two more installments—SCRUBBERS and SCRUBLAND. There’s just too much fun to be had playing with THE SCRUBS. Besides, someone has to stop Jeter. I hope you agree and you’ll come back for more.

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I’m fading…kind of.

I received a very sweet letter from one of my publishers last week. I’d ghost written a book for them a few years ago. They got in touch to tell me that they were remaindering the remaining print run (essentially selling the remaining stock to the likes of Half Price Books) and that they were not picking up the option to do a reprint. Essentially, this is the end of the road for that book. They told me not to take the news personally and it was no reflection of me. I thought that was sweet. Other publishers haven’t been so caring of my feelings. Those letters chose the tone of a football coach—we’re junking your book, now walk it off, pussy.

That’s not the only book of mine to fall on the endangered list. I found out there are only four copies of WORKING STIFFS left. THE SCRUBS went out of print last year. There aren’t any plans to reprint THE SCRUBS, although we are talking about a new edition of WORKING STIFFS. And in 2010, all my Dorchester/Leisure paperbacks came off the shelves when they had their financial meltdown.

So in recent years, I’ve seen a lot of my work live out their publishing lifecycles. I’m not particularly upset by that. I have to make space for new work, but at the same time, I do have an attachment to my books. I put everything into their conception and birth, so it’s hard not to be a little teary eyed when they disappear.

But I’m not too downbeat. Just like Dracula, no book truly dies. Rebirth is always around the corner. Just like energy, they cannot be destroyed, they can only change form. Last year, I resurrected my extinct backlist as eBooks. Foreign editions are still coming out and I hope to share some news about further resurrections soon.

So while a part of my work is fading, I’m not concerned, because there are new and wonderful things on the horizon lighting my way. If they weren’t, then I might be a little less upbeat. 🙂

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I’m happy to say that readers have been finding my eBooks from all quarters. Nook readers have been discovering my books of late. Two titles Nooksters have yet to find are ROAD RASH and THE SCRUBS, which are two of my darker tales that came out under my pen name, Simon Janus. Both tales blend hardboiled crime and horror. In ROAD RASH, a bank robber steals a car and goes on a road to redemption. In THE SCRUBS, an inmate volunteers for a prison sponsored experiment in order to save a child’s life.

I hope the Nooksters amongst you will be intrigued enough to check these titles out.

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I have a love for damaged heroes. I’m not interested in characters who always land on their feet. I think it’s far more interesting for a character to have a few skeletons in his closet, to have done something he’s ashamed of. That way when that character does something heroic, that act has value and depth. I suppose I’m attracted to the concept of redemption when it comes to a hero. It’s easy to hide from our mistakes, but it takes a special person to face up to them and do something about it. and what makes redemption even more attractive to me is that in a lot of ways redemption is a fool’s errand because it can never truly attained. A wrong can never be righted. Forgiveness can never illuminate guilt. A mistake can never be undone. However, it’s something distinctly human to try because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if the damaged hero succeeds or fails in his quest, because it’s about their growth as a person. It’s why I just love the folly of the damaged hero.

In THE SCRUBS, Michael Keeler is my quintessential damaged hero. We meet him as an inmate of Wormwood Scrubs prison. He’s weighed down by his crimes. He’s resigned himself to his life sentence handed down to him. It doesn’t matter that his crime was one of an accidental nature, the crime and its outcome is ugly, tragic and incapable of being undone. He knows he can never make up for the misery he’s caused others, but when he’s offered the chance to volunteer as a guinea pig for a dangerous mission, he sees it as a chance to do something selfless and possibly do something redeem himself in his own eyes, even he can’t in those of his victims. His journey changes him. He starts out as a man trying to save his soul, but by the end, he’s a selfless man willing to make any sacrifice for others.

I suppose my fascination for damaged heroes comes from my belief that with few exceptions, no one is truly good and no one is truly bad. We all have the potential for both. I doubt any one of us can claim to be perfect. We’ve all done something we’re ashamed of or embarrassed by. Even the best of us. What’s truly interesting is how we react to our mistakes and wrongdoings? That’s why a damaged hero will always be interesting to me and hopefully to you.

This concludes the Book of the Month postings for THE SCRUBS. I hope you check out Michael Keeler in THE SCRUBS. You can read the opening chapter here.

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I’m two different writers. No, I’m going through something of an identity crisis and I have two writing identities. And that was a problem. People weren’t sure what I wrote. The problem is that I write in multiple genres. One side of me writes thrillers and mysteries and the other side of me writes horror and dark fantasy. I know a number of writers who flit between genres with no problem and I’d hoped to do the same, but it wasn’t working for me. My writing in different genres confused people. Horror readers thought I wrote mysteries and mystery readers thought I wrote horror. The simple thing to do would be to stick to one genre and have done with it, but I don’t want to. I love writing horror stories as much as I do crime.

So what is a chimera to do? What else, but split.

So I developed a pen name and debuted for THE SCRUBS. It was an easy to assign the penname to my horror identity. Although, my first publishing credits were in the short horror fiction markets, but I hadn’t published a horror novel, whereas all my published and forthcoming novels are thrillers. It would have been too disruptive to reinvent myself in the mystery and thriller world.

I must admit I was quite reluctant to come up with a penname, but I didn’t have choice. My attempts to educate the world to my multi-faceted aspects haven’t worked and it’s getting a little frustrating. People either labeled me as a horror or thriller writer, never both. More than a minor annoyance, the situation was hindering me. Not for the first time, anthology editors had looked me over because they knew me for one genre and not both. It was time to break out the white flag and surrender to the realization that it’s hard being two things at once.

So I came up with Simon Janus. It’s not a random name, but very deliberate. I stuck with Simon as a first name as I find it’s a bugger to sign a different name. Janus is the perfect name to break out with as a penname. If you know your Roman mythology, Janus is the two-faced god. That goes hand in hand with my life in two genres. Also, Janus is the god of new beginnings. The month of January is named after him. Oh, this was too perfect. This really summed up what I was doing at the time. This was fate on a bagel. Finally, Janus sits snuggly on the shelf just before King and Koontz. Hmm…coincidence? I’ll let you decide, but I will say this—sometimes I can be very premeditated.

As Eric Burden of the Animals once said, “I’m just a soul who’s intentions are good. Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.” It’s not a good situation for a writer to be in—and I’m not anymore.

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THE SCRUBS is July’s book of the month. It was the first title to come out under my pen name, Simon Janus. Janus is my identity for my darker work.

I’m heavily influenced by the Twilight Zone and Tales of the Unexpected and THE SCRUBS is a tale that takes the story’s hero down a dark road. Here’s a glimpse into the book.

James Jeter, the notorious serial killer with a sixth sense, holds court inside London’s Wormwood Scrubs Prison. He’s the focus of the “North Wing Project.” Under the influence of a hallucinogen, Jeter can create an alternative world known as “The Rift” containing the souls of his victims. Pardons are on offer to inmates who’ll enter The Rift. Michael Keeler has nothing to lose and little to live for. He’s sent into The Rift to learn the identity of Jeter’s last victim.

It’s a mission where the guilty can be redeemed, but at a price…

Praise for the book:
“The Scrubs is one merciless piece of work.”
— Gary A. Braunbeck, author of Coffin Country

“The Scrubs…it’s a journey to a Twilight Zone of our time.”
— Mort Castle, author of The Stranger

“Lean, mean fear machine – The Scrubs is gruesomely inventive entertainment.”
— Simon Clark, author of This Rage of echoes

“This is, simply put, an incredible novella.”
— Michael Arnzen, author of Bitchfight and Play Dead

“The Scrubs is a superb, fast-paced journey through the hell of incarceration…and way, way beyond.”
— Tim Lebbon, author of Dawn

“If you are looking for a quick read that is sure to leave you breathless until the final page is turned, you cannot do any better than The Scrubs.”
— Horrorworld

“This is a fascinating, disturbing journey.”
— Dark Discoveries Magazine

“A surreal horror trip.”
— Horror Fiction Review

In the coming weeks post, I’ll talk about the story’s origins, my split personalities and my love for damaged heroes. In the meantime, you can read an excerpt from the book here.

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