Simon Wood

Posts Tagged: short stories

June has quite a few bargain books for you to enjoy.  Here they all are!!

THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY: Zoë and Holli’s Vegas road trip goes wrong when they’re abducted. Zoë escapes leaving Holli behind. A year later and still tortured with guilt, Zoë latches on to a murder that eerily resembles her abduction. Her attempts to find justice for Holli brings her to the attention of the “Tally Man.” For him, she is not a survivor but simply the one that got away.

Just $2.00 at Amazon

NO SHOW: Englishman Terry Sheffield has just arrived in San Francisco to start his new life with Sarah, a journalist he married after a transatlantic love affair. When she never shows up at the airport, Terry discovers she’s on the run from a killer with a grudge. To find her before the killer does, Terry realizes she’s very different from the woman he thought he married.  FUN FACT: The day I arrived in the US inspired this book.

Just $1.49 at Amazon

ASKING FOR TROUBLE: The road to crime begins with a single decision—the wrong one.  Not every decision belongs to the criminally minded.  Some belong to the ill-informed, the weak and the plain unlucky.  In these tales, trouble isn’t an indiscriminate force of nature.  It’s a manmade occurrence that comes when called upon.

Just $1.49 at Amazon

I sincerely hope you’re tempted to pick these up.  I don’t think you’ll be sorry. Enjoy!!

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hooker 2016 4aI’m happy to announce the release of the crime novelette, THE HOOKER.  It’s the first in the Reprehensible Acts series of stories.

This isn’t a typical story from me.  The Reprehensible Acts series features stories without heroes or happy endings in most cases.  These stories feature characters that lose their way and may never find their way back.  You can’t condone their actions, but perhaps you can have sympathy for their damaged souls.  You might find these stories unpalatable, but then again, you’re not meant to.  Don’t judge.  No one is immune to committing a reprehensible act.  The storyline is as follows:

“Mark was content to see out his single days with a bachelor party, but his best man, Lance, wasn’t.  He insists in sending Mark off in style…in the company of a hooker.  It’s supposed to be the last hoorah of a single man before being condemned to a life of marriage, but that all changes when the hooker scams them.  Mark’s world unravels and a dark side he never knew he possessed spills out…”

The idea for the Reprehensible Acts series came from a situation I’ve run into with editors from time to time when they think the tone or subject matter of a piece will tweak the reader’s sensitivities in the wrong way.  I’ve had an editor call me up and say, “That’s a bit bleak.  Do you want to tone it down?”  I can in some cases, but not in all.  I was asked to drop a couple of stories from my collection ASKING FOR TROUBLE because of tone.  THE HOOKER was one of those stories.  Sometimes, you just have to go where the story takes you, in all its ugly glory.  A story should make us feel something—even if it’s revulsion or disapproval.  Over the coming months and years, I’m planning to bring you some novellas and stories that press your buttons.  I know these stories won’t be for everyone, but I hope some of you will join me on these voyages to rack and ruin

I hope you’ll give THE HOOKER a tryIt’s available on pre-order from Amazon and Amazon UK.

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I’m pleased to present two new and improved releases—FATHER FIGURE & TENTHS OF A SECOND.  These short stories are available in audio and ebook format.  The stories are quite different. FATHER FIGURE is a Hitchcock Presents style crime piece while TENTHS OF A SECOND is very much rooted in the Twilight Zone.  Which is a good thing as shows formed my storytelling sensibilities.  🙂

father figureFATHER FIGURE: Childs is a son of a bitch and a bastard—literally as well as figuratively—but what he really is, is a small time con man. He’s about to upgrade to the big time and go after the score of his life by bilking the software mogul, Charles Reston, out of every penny he can get. He’s going to do it by convincing Reston that he’s his illegitimate son, which shouldn’t be too hard as the billionaire is his father. However, the problem with the long con is that you get a little too close to your mark…especially when you’re looking for a father figure.

Available from:
Amazon
AmazonUK
Audible
iTunes

Tenths of a Second audibleTENTHS OF A SECOND: Martin Warwick is a down on his luck racecar driver. His only accolade is to make the other drivers look good with his mediocre performances.  It’s not that Martin is a bad driver. He’s just not had the breaks.  He needs a better sponsor which would get him a better car and a little luck to put him ahead of the pack.  The break comes in the form of the mysterious Mallory.  He doesn’t have money or connections.  He has a device to make Martin and any car he drives better.

When your hopes and dreams are just outside of your grasp, you’re willing to do anything, regardless of the consequences.  Martin is about to find out what the price of fame really costs—and he’s willing to pay it gladly.

Available from:
Amazon
AmazonUK
Audible
iTunes

If you’re looking for a story for the commute or to fill a lunch hour then these stories are just the ticket.  I hope you’ll give them a read or listen.

 

 

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marathon-manI was thinking about the perception of safety the other day. Julie doesn’t like it when I leave the front door unlocked when we’re in the house. She doesn’t want anyone storming the castle gates while we’re at home, so she puts her faith in a deadbolt. A two inch slug of steel not even an inch in diameter will keep her from harm. She doesn’t worry (but probably will after this blog) that there’s nothing stopping evil doers from chucking a rock through any of our floor to ceiling windows and entering the house that way.

I started thinking about other safe things in our lives.

When the little red man tells me not to walk, I don’t. The little red man knows all about danger. That’s why he’s red. When I ignore his advice, my heart rate is up a few beats.

Down on the BART system, a row of yellow bricks tells me I’m safe from the speeding trains if I stand behind the yellow bricks, I’m safe. And I do feel safe. The moment I stand on those yellow bricks, I feel queasy. I’ve put myself in danger. A train could hit me. Someone could bump me and send me sprawling onto the electrified rails. Those yellow bricks have some power behind them. It’s really silly. The bricks have no power. My safety can’t be measured by the width of a row of yellow bricks. There’s so much other contributing factors that can take their toll on me.

How many of us fear earthquakes, tornadoes, being struck by lightning or an in-law coming to stay? While these things exist, there’s little chance of them affecting us?

I look around me without my safety goggles on and reexamine my environment. There are so many things I perceive as safe. Harm won’t come to me because I am not putting myself in harm’s way. Theoretically, that is. But boy, isn’t it a tenuous belief system? I am safe on the sidewalk because sidewalks are safe. There’s nothing to say a car won’t plow into me or I won’t trip and fall into road, but I don’t think about these things because the sidewalk is my talisman.

It all comes down to perception. If I perceive danger everywhere I go, then I will see danger everywhere. Perception is reality. If I think safe, then I am safe. I guess there’s a little bit of the Pavlov’s dog syndrome at work inside us all.

I quite like it when my thinking goes off the rails like this. I cross my eyes and I see the emperor without his clothes on. This is useful when it comes to the stories I tell. I like to unpick a character’s world until it unravels by attacking all the things that these people hold dear. Basically, I break down their perceptions and belief system. Life is a tightrope and I like to twang the cable while there are people on it—fictionally speaking that is. WORKING STIFFS serves as a good illustration for this thinking. Several of the stories take this theme to heart. We catch these characters on their worst days on their life, professionally and privately.

I hope I haven’t given of you worriers out there something worry over. If I have, don’t. Now, sleep tight and I’ll see you in your dreams.

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thrillerI have a real soft spot anthology TV shows. Shows like The Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, Tales of the Unexpected to name a few. There’s something exciting about an anthology show. The stories aren’t confined to a set of characters, locale or theme. They can go anywhere, exploring any possibility. I think anthology shows are responsible for my love of short stories. They’re the perfect medium for experimentation with ideas and style.

Anthology shows aren’t popular these days which is a shame but I want to shine a light on a few shows that helped formed the humble writer before you and which you’re unlikely to recognize.

THRILLER (1973-76): A wonderful series put together by the great TV writer Brian Clemens. The show’s broad title gave the breadth to features any story that could be classified as a thriller, so they ranged from cooks and swindlers to supernatural horror.

ARMCHAIR THRILLER (1978-81): This show featured half hour suspense stories. It’s very memorable to me as it had very creepy opening credits and it came on after the news (past my bedtime) and I had to beg to stay up to see it.

murderMURDER IN MIND (2001-03): Anthony Horowitz’s wonderful show centering on the dark side of the ordinary person. A real gem of a show.

NIGHT GALLERY (1969-73): Rod Serling’s follow-up effort to THE TWILIGHT ZONE and while NIGHT GALLERY could be considered THE TWILIGHT ZONE-Lite, there were some stand out episodes amongst the painting inspired stories.

Naturally with all anthology shows, not every episode is gold and the shows have aged and production values could be better but the stories themselves in most cases have something, so I recommend you do a little YouTubing and see for yourself.

For myself, all I can say is catching up with these shows reinforces my love of short stories and you should expect more story anthologies from me in the future.

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I like short stories—both writing them and reading them.  Some of the most memorable fiction I’ve read has been in the form of short stories.  The power of a short story is its brevity.  It can sometimes get the point over better than a novel.  Take Ernest Hemmingway’s six-word masterpiece:
Those six words carry so much potency because we, the reader, are forced to speculate as to what has happened. Hemmingway could have fleshed out the story.  We could have seen a couple write the want ad for the newspaper or have an expectant couple respond to the want ad for the baby shoes.  We could have had the drama and emotion of a much longer tale.  But y’know what?  It wasn’t necessary.  Six words were all that needed to convey the same.  That’s what’s so fantastic about short stories.  They can be a few thousand words or a handful of pages but if the story is well written and the reader brings their imagination to the plate, everyone goes on a much longer journey.

I advocate for the short story because I am always surprised that so many people dislike them.  This post is inspired by some recent reviews I’ve received where some people said they hated short stories and one person complained that they were a cheat on the reading public.  Naturally, people are entitled to their opinion but this opinion surprises me in this day and age.  We consume information at faster and faster rates.  We need everything now and condensed.  Hell, we have a billion dollar company that is founded on communication in 140 characters or less.  It should be a golden age for short stories.  But it isn’t.

When people say they don’t like short stories or don’t read them that’s not strictly true.  If you watch TV drama, you’re watching a short story.  A script for an hour long show is less than fifty pages.  A half hour comedy will top out at twenty five pages at the very, very most.  So don’t tell me you don’t like short stories.  J
So (putting my car salesman hat on) what do I have to do to put you in a short story today?  Beg?  I will if you ask nicely.  Make you dinner?  I can cook.  Babysit your kids?  Let’s not get carried away.  Look, I dare you to read a short story and not enjoy it.  I just ask that you come to it with an open mind and an open heart.  If you want to read one of mine, I have plenty to suggest (just scroll to the bottom of this post).  Want other author recommendations, I’m happy to oblige.  Because I’m going to keep on making the case for them and I’m going to keep on writing them so you just need to give in and do as I say.  It’s for the best.

Look, I’m willing to meet you halfway.  For years I’ve been trying to come up with a six word story as good as Hemmingway’s, but I have developed a taste for the novella in recent years.  I want to write some short stories in the ten to twenty thousand word range (aka 50-100 pages).  Something with plenty of depth that’ll occupy your time on your commute to and from work or during a lunch hour.  Sounds tempting, doesn’t it?  Admit it.  You know it does.
But while I think about it, I can still see the short story stigma being a problem.  It’s a packaging and branding problem.  The short story needs a 21stcentury makeover.  Let’s not call them short stories anymore.  Let’s call them the “Blip Novels.”  Yeah, I like it.  Now they’ll take off.

 

 

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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

Categories: book of the month shelf life

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Hey, it must be my birthday!  Well, actually it is in a couple weeks, but that’s not important right now.  The important thing is that Amazon has named ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN & DRAGGED INTO DARKNESS in their 100 Hundred Books for April.  It’s an interesting pairing as ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN was my first book & DRAGGED INTO DARKNESS was my first short story collection. So it’s quite nostalgic to see these books back in the limelight.  Anyway, to the meat of the subject.  Both books have promotion pricing, but ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN ebook is only 99cents this month. Hopefully that’s whetted your appetite.

Josh Michaels isn’t wanted dead or alive—just dead. That fact becomes shockingly clear when a stranger runs his car off the road. Instead of a helping hand, the man gives Josh a “thumbs down” and abandons him to what is almost certainly a watery grave. Luckily, Josh cheats death…this time. But when more harrowing “accidents” threaten his life, it’s clear he’s a marked man.

Are his past mistakes coming back to bite him? Or is something more sinister afoot? And how can he convince his family, friends, and especially the cops that he’s in danger? The harder Josh fights to stay alive, the more determined his unknown enemy is to see him dead. And the deeper he digs for answers, the more chilling the truth becomes. As his time and luck rapidly run out, he must unmask an insidious conspiracy bent on making a killing—in more ways than one.

Nerve-jangling noir doesn’t get much blacker than Simon Wood’s top speed trip into cold-blooded murder and hot-blooded vengeance.

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.


I hope you’ll check these books.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.  🙂

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Hey, it must be my birthday!  Well, actually it is in a couple weeks, but that’s not important right now.  The important thing is that Amazon has named ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN & DRAGGED INTO DARKNESS in their 100 Hundred Books for April.  It’s an interesting pairing as ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN was my first book & DRAGGED INTO DARKNESS was my first short story collection. So it’s quite nostalgic to see these books back in the limelight.  Anyway, to the meat of the subject.  Both books have promotion pricing, but ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN ebook is only 99cents this month. Hopefully that’s whetted your appetite.

Josh Michaels isn’t wanted dead or alive—just dead. That fact becomes shockingly clear when a stranger runs his car off the road. Instead of a helping hand, the man gives Josh a “thumbs down” and abandons him to what is almost certainly a watery grave. Luckily, Josh cheats death…this time. But when more harrowing “accidents” threaten his life, it’s clear he’s a marked man.

Are his past mistakes coming back to bite him? Or is something more sinister afoot? And how can he convince his family, friends, and especially the cops that he’s in danger? The harder Josh fights to stay alive, the more determined his unknown enemy is to see him dead. And the deeper he digs for answers, the more chilling the truth becomes. As his time and luck rapidly run out, he must unmask an insidious conspiracy bent on making a killing—in more ways than one.

Nerve-jangling noir doesn’t get much blacker than Simon Wood’s top speed trip into cold-blooded murder and hot-blooded vengeance.

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.


I hope you’ll check these books.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.  🙂

Categories: book of the month

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A few years back, I was on a panel and an audience member asked what kind of writers we were. Struggling was the first thing that sprung to my mind, but that wasn’t the answer the questioner was looking for. I never felt that I had an agenda or a platform to perch my work upon. It was a really good question and it got me thinking.

I see themes in other writers’ work. I love Ruth Rendell when she writes under her Barbara Vane pseudonym. Guilt rears its ugly head in virtually all of her Vane novels. For those that have read her, just look at A Fatal Inversion, Gallowglass, The Chimney Sweeper’s Boy, No Night Is Too Long and The Brimstone Wedding to name a few. The characters have done something wholly terrible and they want it kept quiet, but no matter how depth the truth is buried, it finds a way of rising to the surface. At times, it’s hard to like these people but I can empathize with them. Luck sometimes keeps us from falling down a crevice of bad decision-making. I’ve noticed that Peter Straub often deals with a past injustice that only come to light generations later. When I notice a common thread, I wonder what the root cause is for the theme. What’s the source of the muse that created all these great books? What locked boxes do these authors have? Maybe none. Maybe I’m transferring too much of myself into the situation and reading things that aren’t there. But I hope not. 🙂

But what about me. What can o’ worms get opened up every time I write a tale. When I examine my stories, I do see a common theme running through them all. Predicaments seem to play a central role in my stories. Usually an unsuspecting person, an average Joe by every definition, is put on the spot. A situation arises that my protagonist can’t walk away. The reason they are there is usually their own fault. Sometimes it falls into the no good deed variety, but usually, the story’s hero has done something to get them ensnared. A tryst. An indiscretion. A little white with a black edge. A past mistake. These factors are subject to Newtonian psychics. For every action, there’s an equal and opposition reaction. It doesn’t matter how minor the mistake my characters have committed, there’s a price to be paid. Things come back to trip my protagonists up. This means my heroes are starting off on the back foot. They are struggling with desperate times where failure means the destruction of their comfortable way of life. So my stories are told from a nightmarish stance. My protagonists are desperate when the reader meets them.

Where do these characters come from? Why have I chosen storylines like this? I think it’s because I can identify with these people. I live a pretty ordinary life, but I can see how fine a line I walk. One bad decision and my life could change forever. There have been several instances in my life where something I’ve done has come back to bite me (and I may share one or two of these over the month). Some very innocuous actions have caused some of these instances. I also grew up with a number of people who bit off more than they could chew and it really cost them. So when my what-if synapses kick in, it usually centers on a minor action that will snowball into something large. The stories in Asking For Trouble touch this subject again and again from different angles. Matt joins the Taskmasters to turn his life around and ends up on the wrong side of the law. In Making End Meet, Richard’s in-laws are draining his financials until he finds a way of dealing with them, but his attempts backfire. Leah is trying to defend her home, but there’s a bigger price to be paid when she brings A Gun In The House. These characters will either succumb to these situations or fight to drag themselves clear of danger.

So I have a method to my madness and I like it, because life has a funny way of turning mean when you cross a line. Just ask Anthony Wiener.

Yours trying to be good,
Simon

Categories: book of the month

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