Simon Wood

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canadian-flagBeing an author used to mean living in the dark times.  It could take almost a year before I saw a sales statement for a particular book.  But thanks to improved technology, I know how many books I’m selling in real time (not quite but pretty close) and more importantly, I know WHO is buying my books (drone technology…don’t be afraid).  And that’s where I got a little shock.  Canadians don’t really buy my books.  I sell more books in Germany than I have in Canada and I don’t get that.  We have so much in common!  We aren’t afraid to use the letter U in words like colour, valour, etc.  We both celebrate Boxing Day.  I know that Saskatchewan is a province and not a sound Canadians make when they sneeze.  Frankly, we are pretty much family.  So what’s going on, Canada?

Rather than turn my back on my Canadian family, I want to do something about the situation.  I know there are some Canadians out there who read my ramblings on a regular basis, so I turn to you, my friends to the north, for help and advice.  Simply put, what should I do to change the situation?  How do I become more enticing to Canadians? Who should be reviewing my books?  Who should I be blackmailing?  Let me know.

14jJPXpXI know I have Canadian readers out there, so I do have a task for you.  I want you to go up to a fellow Canadian—it can be a friend or family member or even a complete stranger—and say, “Have you read Simon Wood?  No, well you should.  I suggest you read (insert favourite title here).”

Now this may sound a little culty, but that’s okay.  Cults aren’t all bad…I don’t think.  Let’s not worry about that for now and focus on the important part—and that’s finding a Canadian readership.  Look, I have faith in my Canadians and together we can do it.  You don’t want the Germans to beat you on this score, do you?

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Batman has robin. George has Lenny. Laurel has Hardy. Arm has Hammer. And I have Julie. Julie is my sidekick. Like Snoop Dogg says, “Everyone needs a sidekick.” Thanks for the wisdom, Snoop.

When I say sidekick, it may sound like I’m belittling the importance of this role. A sidekick’s relationship with their mainkick (That’s a new word. I invented it. Hands off, buddy) is a necessary one. A mainkick needs their sidekick to function. I need my sidekick. I need my Julie. I couldn’t function without her.

As I’ve mentioned before, on account of my dyslexia, Julie is a vital part of my writing process. She’s my eyes. She reads all my manuscripts to check for my mistakes and reads them all aloud so I can edit. This is just one of her roles. She’s my sounding board for ideas. I look to her for opinions on whether I should appear at this store or attend that convention. I don’t sign any contract without her reading it over. She’s my cheerleader when something good happens and my shrink when I’m low. There are many times when she’s talked me out of giving up writing (I think she’s holding out for the movie deal if one should happen).

All of this is great for me. I’m glad and feel really lucky that Julie has the right temperament to help me with all these issues. It might sound like I’m dependent on her or unsure of myself. In some ways that’s true, but my background is in engineering. No engineer lets his work go without a checker and an approver first looking over it. That instinct is engrained into me. It would be foolhardy of me to think I’m always right and incapable of making a mistake. I need someone like Julie on my team to ensure I turn out the best work I can. Working alone, it’s easy to get complacent or miss something.

Julie needs to have the spotlight shined on her.

This might sound like some sappy love note, but it’s not. I have a Julie and so can you. After January 1, you can have a Julie—the writer’s sidekick—for the low-low rental price of $99.99 per week + shipping and handling. This price does not include the cost of food. Apply now to avoid disappointment. Operators are standing by.

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In recent years I’ve been really lucky.  Several of my books have been embraced my readers and really taken off.  And that’s been fantastic.  However, not every book has done as equally as well.  A few remain undiscovered.  So this is a little tough to accept as every one of them is a beloved child…even if it’s a redheaded stepchild.  Now I know not every book will do as well as others.  Any number of reasons can hold a book back from storyline to style.  So I get it.  It’s not personal.  That said I think people are missing out on some of my books, so I’d like to shine a light on four of my books that I think are worth your time and consideration.

WeAllFallDown400WE ALL FALL DOWN: Hayden Duke is a young man on the fast track.  He’s just signed on with Marin Design Engineering to work on a very high-level project.  But before Hayden started, one of MDE’s employee’s committed suicide.  And he’s not the only one.  Is it the pressure?  Or is there some other connection?  Has Hayden Duke just put himself on the fast track to an early death?

e-scrubs2xTHE SCRUBS: 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.

Road-Rash-500ROAD RASH: James 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.

work-2BstiffsWORKING STIFFS: In this collection of short stories, the workplace is a dangerous place. The unscrupulous are primed and ready to take advantage of the innocent and naïve. A slight indiscretion can cost the employee everything. A new position can turn a person into someone they are not. Those at the top can be toppled and those at the bottom can be crushed.

Until now, Vincent’s father has kept one side of the business a secret from his son. Vincent is about to learn the family business. On the most important day of his career, Sam’s world will unravel when he helps a woman in distress. Todd has failed in every job he’s undertaken, but that changes when he backs into a drug dealer’s car. Now he’s in hock with organized crime and can only get himself out from under if he works for them to pay off his debt. Kenneth Casper is ailing and so is his business empire. His shareholders circle like vultures. Casper pins all his hopes on a Peruvian shaman with a miracle cure.

I hope you’ll check out these books.  You won’t be disappointed.

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lcc2016I’m at Left Coast Crime—Phoenix and this is my schedule while I’m there.

Coffee with Simon Wood (sold out)
Friday, March 13, 2015 from Noon–1:15pm

A Funny Thing Happened… – Anecdotes, horror stories, and laughs from veteran crime writers
With Simon Wood (moderator), Jess Lourey, Catriona McPherson, Bryon Quertermous & Johnny Shaw
Friday, February 26, 2016 1:30pm – 2:30pm

Sex, Sex, Sex: Discuss – How much sex in mysteries is too much?
With Jess Lourey (moderator), David Corbett, L.J. Sellers, Charles Todd (Caroline) & Simon Wood
Saturday, February 27, 2016 3:00pm – 4:00pm

If you’re going, feel free to make yourself known.  I won’t bite.

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Writing is sometimes easy and sometimes a right pain in the arse. When it’s the latter, it can get real intense. There I am trying to make words fit into sentences and sentences fit into paragraphs and none of it wants to hang together. It feels like I’m playing Jenga with sticks of TNT. After days of banging my head against the problem, the whole thing loses meaning. Verbs become mystical creatures that gallop through lavender meadows. I don’t know a period from hole in the ground. In the end it feels like I’ve been staring into the sun for a week and it hurts when I look away.

When I’ve gotten to this stage, it’s time for a break (psychotic or otherwise). There’s no point sitting at the keyboard any longer. I have to put some distance between me and the problem by doing something else much less difficult—like creating cold fusion or solving world hunger. Actually, I find something really mundane helps. It’s like a palate cleanser. It clears all my preconceptions and allows a clear flow of thoughts. Before long, I have the answers to my problems.

So what things do I do to clear my mental logjam? I usually take Royston for a walk. This has sort of lost its effectiveness. Royston used to be a Great Dane and I’ve worn him down to a dachshund. I say, “Royston, it’s time for a walk.” He looks at me with that “another bloody walk” look and runs away. As soon as he hears me swearing at the computer screen, he sneaks off to hide the leash.

To give Ro-Ro a rest, I do other things—mainly chores. I work in the garden. I have an unstoppable wall of ivy in the backyard and I get out the hedge trimmer and whittle it down to size while moaning, “Character development, my arse!” Or I get on hands and knees yanking the weed grass out of the lawn while muttering, “So how do you garrote someone when you only have one arm?”

Another of my decompression exercises is to do the laundry or iron our clothes. I find it very therapeutic to separate my heavy cottons from my delicates.

Julie quite likes this little trait of mine. Chores around the house get done. I get the feeling that when she edits my work she’s not being entirely honest. I believe she has an ulterior motive. Just listen to this recent, yet telling remark. “Simon, I don’t think this scene is quite right. I’m not sure your character would act this way. Now, here’s a paint brush. The bathroom needs going over.”

Now I know I could be misreading the situation, but my next book project is going to be a tough one and Julie suggested I should go for it—but lately, she’s been outlining her needs for the kitchen remodel…

Well, that’s how I decompress—how do you get away from it all when you can’t go anywhere?

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Last summer I was the subject of a short documentary piece about dyslexia.  It’s a series of interviews with dyslexics put out by the Dyslexic Advantage.  It’s an organization that endeavors to highlight dyslexic success stories.

Here’s a short preview of that interview.  Enjoy!

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TOTGAI’ve been sitting on this tidbit for a little bit, but I have permission to finally announce it.  I have some exciting news. Namely, THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY has been optioned for a film by Rainforest Entertainment.  Their past films include NO GOOD DEED, OBSESSED, TAKERS and RIDE ALONG.

A movie option is only the first step to getting a film made but with the track record the producers have, I think there’s a more than even chance that a THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY movie could be at theater near you…

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author reviewI don’t think readers don’t know the power they wield and how it can help their favorite writers. Here are five simple things readers can do to help any writer.

1. The first rule is Buy a Book. I know it’s a given, but if you want to keep your favorite writers in business, you have to buy a book.

2. The second rule is to borrow a book from the public library (and I bet you thought I was going with the buy a book thing again). Library book sales are good for the writer. They provide a backbone of sales that can make or break a writer’s next contract. Even if you’ve bought the book, still go and borrow it from the library and if the library doesn’t have it, request it. This helps not only the writer, but also the libraries. Increased demand ensures libraries stay open.

3. The third rule of reader’s club is to write a review. It doesn’t have to be an in-depth critical analysis or high school book report. Just a few sentences giving a title the thumb’s up is good, then put it up on Amazon, Barnesandnoble.com, etc. Share your thoughts on sites like Goodreads.com and Shelfari. Goodreads lets you recommend your favorite books to your fellow readers. Public opinion really carries weight and the information on these sites get used by other sites.

4. The fourth rule is to tell a friend. Word of mouth is gold. If you like a writer or a book, tell someone about it. It’s not a national secret.

5. The fifth and final rule is to buy another book. Don’t be one those people who say “yeah, I read a book once.” It won’t hurt to do it again and writers will thank you for it.

We all need our stories and without storytellers, we can’t have our stories. And don’t forget, if you’re going to start with someone, start with me. 🙂

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I’ve been quite lucky with my writing. I’ve had my stories appear in hardback, paperback, magazines, anthologies, on audio, on radio, in translation and even on a coffee can, but I’m not satisfied. I’m a restless kind of writer. I can’t just be happy writing books. I want more than that. I don’t think it’s because I’m greedy (although there could be an element of that, which I’ll let you decide). No, I think I’m ambitious, but more than that I’m eager to experiment. I want to be a storyteller and that means telling stories in different formats and different genres. So here are a few things that I’ve got on my writer’s bucket list:

WRITE A RADIO PLAY
More than just having a radio play produced, I want to write one that will appear on BBC Radio 4. I grew up listening to Radio 4 lunchtime serials, Sunday night serials and Book at Bedtime. They’ve done amazing adaptations of Chandler, LeCarre, Christie, Rankin, King as well as original works. I want to leave my mark in Radio 4’s sands.

WRITE A STAGE PLAY
For similar reasons for wanting to write a radio play, I want to write a stage play. I really enjoy the theatre. If done well, a live performance is amazing because it’s unfolding in front of you. Also I like the limitation of the stage. Only so many people can fit on there and the change of location is confined. I really like when a production thinks outside the literal box to stretch those limits. For anyone who’s seen the Woman In Black will know what I mean. So when Ruth Jordan at CrimeSpree suggested one of my short stories would make for a stage adaptation, the idea has stuck with me. Unlike my quest to appear on Radio 4, I’m driven to have a piece on Broadway or in the West End. I’m content to have something produced by a regional or local theatre. I just want to have fun with an idea.

HAVE SOMETHING ON THE SILVER SCREEN OR THE BOOB TUBE
I’d love to have one of my books or stories made into a movie or appear on TV. I think it’s most writers’ dream because it’s mass media and it’s a chance to have your story seen on a mammoth scale. Unlike most of my other writing ambitions, I don’t have any great desire to write a screenplay or anything as I’ve heard too many horror stories from my writing buddies, although I wouldn’t say no if asked. I’m content for others to take the story do something wonderful with it…hopefully. 🙂

WRITE A COMIC BOOK
As a dyslexic, I loved comics growing up. They were a real help: the words were sparse and the pictures filled in the blanks. Great stuff for a dyslexic. Naturally, I’d like write a comic book or graphic novel myself. I want to do something with pictures as well as words. I’m happy to write something original or play with an existing material. I’m not fussy. There was some tentative discussion to convert ROAD RASH or THE FALL GUY into a graphic novel but it didn’t come off, but I’m always eager…as you can tell.

WRITE FOR DOCTOR WHO

For me, The Doctor is the universe’s greatest hero. I’ve been watching since I was tiny. I’m no longer content to be just a viewer. I want to be part of the legacy. I want to add to the legend. Ideally, I’d like to write an episode, but I’m happy to write anything. Doctor Who is a multimedia extravaganza that spans books, comics, and original audio book based stories. I don’t care how it appears, I just want to say, “Yeah, I’ve written for The Doctor.”

WRITE FOR BATMAN
For the same reasons as Doctor Who, Batman is my all-time favorite caped crusader and I’d love a shot at writing an original story for DC (as I have them all mapped out in my head). Personally, I’d like to do an original novel as I’d feel too much pressure coming up with a comic book storyline.

I do have other writing ambitions, but they parallel many of things that I’ve mentioned here. I’m all ready and eager to do all these things. I just need to work out how I’m going to do it. Hmm, I was hoping it was going to be easier than this. Anyway, here’s to dreams coming true. 🙂

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I’m a titleist. By that I don’t mean I’m a brand of golf ball. I mean that I pay special attention to my titles for my stories and books. I know the saying goes you can’t judge a book by its cover, but a cover does catch the reader’s eye and so does a title. A catchy title might make someone pick up a book and the jacket blurb might just seal the deal. So, I’m a titleist.
Every time I come up with a book, I do my very best to come up with a unique and interesting title—the more unique the better. The reason I want a standout title is because I want people to find my book. I’m not a big name and if I’ve picked a title a dozen other authors have used, I’m potentially sunk and a reader could go home with a book I didn’t write, but thought I wrote. So before I name a book, I look for the title on Amazon and BN.com. If my proposed title pops up then I rename the book. I want to make it easy for people to find me. When someone calls out the title of my book, I want to make sure they can’t get it wrong and that they go home with a little bit of me under their arm.

But I never bothered to do that with my name. When I began writing, I debated going under a pseudonym, but when I made my first sale, my wife said, you shouldn’t hide. You should publish under your own name—and with a flush of pride, I did. What a mistake.

Much to my dismay, I am one of several Simon Woods out there writing.  I’m not the one who writes about wine, or woodwork, British social history or sneakers. To the reader, I seem to have a split personality.

The problem is that the book searches can’t make a distinction between the Simon Wood who writes about wine and me. This can make it real tricky for all the many Simon Woods writing out there. There’s still a chance of mistaken identity.

The situation has just got a little more complicated.  Until now, I was the only Simon Wood writing fiction. Now there’s a South African gent who lives in England who’s written a thriller called Beneath and a couple of people have bought the book thinking it was me.  Eek!

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot I can do to differentiate all my namesakes.  It’s not like the movies where no two actors can have the same name. So you (my potential readers), my namesakes and me are stuck with each other.  All I can do is strengthen my identity with the reading public—and possibly assassinate all my namesakes (the way Jet Li did in that movie THE ONE).

There’s a new wrinkle.  I also share the same name with the 2015 winner of MasterChef.  It’s been interesting to see his successes spring up on my Google alerts–and the occasional confusion between him and me.  Maybe us Simons should merge into one Super Simon??

If I could do it all again, I would go with a pen name. I’d have chosen something like Tiger Smith (which was the name of my first pet and my mother’s maiden name). Now no writer goes under that name—and for good reason, probably—but that’s not the point. It’s all about being memorable—and a unique name and title is a good place to start.

If that doesn’t work, then I’ll just to have to make my writing unique.  🙂

With hindsight, your humble author,
Simon Wood (the one who didn’t write a book about sneakers)

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