Simon Wood

Posts Tagged: short stories

Like with all my books, the stories have origins in something from real life. WORKING STIFFS is no different and as a story collection, it has a bunch of inspirations. Here’s some of the stories behind the stories.

Old Flames Burn The Brightest
I’ve been in the US twenty plus years now and during that time, I’ve gained a bunch of friends, but this has been at the expense of my friends back home. I’ll be digging through some box of junk for something and come across something else that will make me all nostalgic, and I get to wondering about all the people I’ve lost touch with. What are they doing? Have they changed? Are they married or divorced or both? In my mind’s eye, they haven’t changed. They’ll always be the same people I knew back in England, forever frozen in 1998.

But these people can’t be the same. During my brief trips back to England, even my friends I still see have changed. Their lives have moved on and I haven’t been around to witness it. I don’t think I’ve changed, but I’m sure those people see differences in me too. It’s odd to think about, but true.

But with the writing, there’s a chance I may re-encounter lost friends. It’s happened already. Now and again, I’ll get an email along the lines of—aren’t you the Simon Wood I used to go to school/beat up once/stole my cat?

I still have hopes that I’ll bump into these lost friends and that was the inspiration of Old Flames Burn The Brightest. Colin Hill encounters a never-was girlfriend, Denise. He hopes to rekindle something that never existed, but Denise isn’t the same person Colin used to know and unfortunately for Denise, neither is Colin.

My Father’s Secret
This was an easy story to write because Raymond Chandler told me what to write. I have an old BBC recording which features Ian Fleming interviewing Raymond Chandler. Fleming and Chandler discuss the differences in their work and what inspires them to write what they do. During the interview, Chandler describes how mob hits were arranged in the U.S. I thought, wow, what a great idea for a story.

I used the mechanics of a mob hit for the skeleton of the story, but I added the complication of the relationship between father and son. Don’t go reading anything into the relationship between my own father and me. Rarely does anything from my own personal experiences make it directly to the pages of my stories. Rather, certain facets of life and people tug at my sensibilities.

So thanks, Ray. I owe you a gimlet.

Parental Guidance
Where do you get your ideas from?

It’s a familiar question I’m asked. Literally anything can inspire a story. With Parental Guidance, it was a TV advertisement. It just goes to show that TV advertising works—just not the way they hoped.

The ad was for credit consolidation. It was one of those cheesy, homemade adverts that do the product or service being pimped no favors. The ad was simple. A family, consisting of husband, wife, and two kids, sit in front of the camera while the father tells how his life was out of control because of credit debt until he turned it all around thanks to blah-blah credit counseling. The ad ends with the father saying, “I took control and my life has never been better.”

It was such a creepy line to end the advert on that it gave me the chills. There was just something about the actor’s delivery, like he was trying to let us in on his real secret. The story came to me before the ad break ended. I wanted a tale of keeping up with the Joneses with a difference. I wanted a tarnished tale about what it means to keep up with not only the Joneses but the world in general, but I wanted darken it with the uneasy sentinment I felt after hearing the father’s last sentence.

A Break In The Old Routine
I people watch and I have a nasty habit of giving the people I watch a whole history. A Break In the Old Routine began life that way. I was riding BART into San Francisco and there was this striking women sitting several rows over from me. Watching her, I came up with a character prfolie for her. Wasn’t that nice of me?

I got an attack of the guilts when I went to get off the train and she got off with me. For a frightening moment, I thought this woman was going to call me out for staring. She didn’t and she went on her way, but I thought about what if she had called me on it? What then?

I have to give credit to Working Stiffs’ editor, David LaBounty for the success of this story. He took what I thought was a decent enough story and turned into something special. He read my draft and said that he felt the story should end differently. And he was right. I hope you agree.

The Real Deal
The Real Deal, like Parental Guidance, was inspired by television. And no, I don’t spend all day in front of the TV, just most of it. I watched an episode of Night Gallery which featured an old gangster trying to preserve his legacy. It was an interesting story with a lame ending. But the crux of the story, trying to preserve one’s own mark on history, stuck with me. A couple of years later, I watched an episode of Lonely Planet and travel icon, Ian Wright, traveled to Peru and went through a bizarre witchdoctor ceremony to cure him of all his ills. These two things clashed to create a story about an ailing businessman trying to save his equally ailing business empire.

Officer Down
This was one of those story ideas that once it came to me, I couldn’t dislodge it. This image popped into my head of a police officer getting shot in the line of duty, but surviving because of his kevlar vest. The key thing that stuck with me was that tiny moment before being shot where you believe you’re going to die, only to survive.

I was fascinated by how someone would cope with that juxtoposition of living when you believed you were going to die. Could a person continue under those circumstances? For the character in Officer Down, I decided he couldn’t.

To pile on the pain, the police officer is shot with his own gun after he loses it in a tussle with a thief. The cop can’t move on with his life until he gets his gun back and in doing so, he breaks the rules he was sworn to uphold.

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This one is for the writers amongst you. Over the last few years, I’ve developed a number of online writing courses for Sisters In Crime. The workshops haven’t been available outside of their membership until now. I’m planning on having a different writing workshop every month, but I’m kicking off this first phase with five classes. Here’s what’s on the docket:

The start dates for the classes are as follows (just click the links for course details):
KILLER SUSPENSE: October 5th
PLOT THICKENERS: June 8th
MANAGING POINTS OF VIEW (POV): July 6th
SHORT STORIES: August 3rd
AUTHOR PROFESSIONALISM: September 7th

The nitty gritty:
The format of classes is a mix of videos and handouts as part of an online classroom.
The classes run for two weeks with 6 to 7 lessons in each workshop, except for the plotting workshop, which is three weeks.
With every lesson, there’s an assignment and feedback. You aren’t obliged to do the homework or send it to me for feedback. It’s entirely up to you.
The class is conducted via groups.io. People are expected to join in and comment on everybody’s work.
Lessons will be posted every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. That is subject to change. If people need more time then I will slow the lessons down.

Workshop cost: $50 each (exception for the Plot Thickeners – that’s $65)

If you’d like to sign up, please send me an email.  Let me know if you have any questions.

UPDATE: The WORKSHOP page is now linked to the website store for easier online signup.

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As I’ve done with my last few books, I’ve created a playlist for my Cockney Rhyming Slang inspired book TROUBLE & STRIFE. Each title relates to one of the stories in the book (although I’ve taken liberties with a couple of songs):

Steve Brewer’s BABBLING BROOK (slang for crook).
Song “The fun lovin’ criminal” – Fun Lovin’ Criminals.

Angel Luis Colón’s BUNSEN BURNER (slang for earner, as in making money).
Song “Earned it” – The Weeknd.

Johnny Shaw’s DICKY DIRT (slang for shirt).
Song “T-shirt weather” – Circa Waves.

Paul Finch’s MR. KIPPER (slang for Jack the Ripper).
Song “Jack the Ripper” – Screaming Lord Sutch.

Jay Stringer’s HALF INCH (slang for pinch as in to steal).
Song “Pinch me” – Bare-naked Ladies.

Catriona McPherson’s BARNET FAIR (slang for hair).
Song “Hair” – The Cowsills.

Susanna Calkins’ TEA LEAF (slang for thief).
Song “Nothing but thieves” – Amsterdam.

Travis Richardson’s LEE MARVIN (slang for starving).
Song “Wand’rin star” – Lee Marvin.

Colin Campbell’s TROUBLE & STRIFE (slang for wife).
Song “Trouble and strife” – Béla Fleck and the Flecktones.

Sam Wiebe’s A LADY FROM BRISTOL (slang for pistol).
Song “Who’s that lady” – Isley Brothers.

Robert Dugoni’s PLEASURE & PAIN (slang for rain).
Song “Love reign o’er me” – The Who.

As I curated this criminal enterprise, I chose “Trouble” by Ray LaMontagne and “Strife” by Trivium.

If you’ve read the book, these songs will make a lot of sense and if you haven’t, it should give you an inkling as to what to expect.

Learn more about the book here and listen to all the song below

 

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TROUBLE & STRIFE picked up a great review from Mystery Scene magazine (which is on the right of the screen).  It came with the quotable line:

TROUBLE & STRIFE, edited by Simon Wood, is a clever (and very good) themed anthology.”

I wasn’t sure how the anthology was going to be received because the book is very thematic, so I was very pleased to see such a positive assessment.  It was so nice to so many of the authors singled out for praise.

If the review image is a little hard on the eyes, you can read the complete review here.

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It’s a new year and that means I receive annual royalty statements for a couple of my books. One such book was LOWLIFES. It’s been a pretty successful book, but the publisher said, “Royalties have fallen off the edge of a cliff. I guess books do have a finite life.”

I understand the sentiment but I disagree. The problem I have (and it’s a nice one to have) is that I have close to two dozen titles in publication. That means some books will take the limelight while others are pushed into the shadows. It’s not necessarily my early books. My most popular titles are usually the latest and my first.

So I want to shine some light on what could be considered my forgotten titles.

LOWLIFES: Larry Hayes is a decorated police inspector with a substance abuse problem and he has to investigate himself as to whether he murdered a homeless man. I have a soft spot for this slice of pulpy noir because I was commissioned to write this piece from a brief outline.

HOT SEAT: This is the second of the Aidy Westlake motor racing mysteries. Aidy gets his first professional drive but soon finds himself press ganged into investigating the murder of a team mechanic by his gangster brother. Again with many of the Aidy Westlake stories, it’s based on my own experiences in the motor racing world.

ROAD RASH: Straley is a bank robber on the run, but the situation takes a downward turn after he steals a car from a fatal car wreck. He develops an all consuming rash within hours of driving away, but the disease isn’t bacterial. He will lose everything, including his skin on a journey to redemption. The story is partially inspired by a personal encounter with Santeria believers.

WORKING STIFFS: This was my first collection of short stories all with a workplace theme. The publisher asked me to come up with the themed collection after reading one of the stories. I rose to the challenge by coming up with stories that ranged from the police workplace all the way to the criminal workplace. Everything is a job…even crime.

I would love it if you’d check these books out. They might not be the bells of the ball, but you’d like them just as much. You just have to get to know them.

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My cockney rhyming slang themed book TROUBLE & STRIFE has been in the news media a bit of late so I thought I would catch up on all you’ve missed.

AUTHOR ON THE AIR radio interview.

THE BIG THRILL magazine interview.

Travis Richardson interviews all the contributors on SLEUTH SAYERS.

Susanna Calkins discusses being a “tea leaf” on her website.

I hope you’ll support the book by picking up a copy because all writers put a lot of thought and time into their stories and it would be great to reward them for all their hard work.  If you’ve not snagged your copy of TROUBLE & STRIFE, you can do so here!

 

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For those who’ve taken an interest in my Cockney Rhyming Slang themed book TROUBLE & STRIFE might be interested to see rhyming slang in use.  This snippet of LOCK STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS turns the volume up to 11 on CRS.  It’s a linguistic joy.  Enjoy with my compliments.  🙂

I hope this’ll tempt you into snapping the book up.  The people involved worked their bottles off to bring it to you.

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Colorful lanaguage has inspired my new book TROUBLE & STRIFE.  I love colorful language. The sheer creativity of subverting our day to day speech is something I enjoy. That’s the essence of slang. Every culture uses slang where people throw away the formality of language to convey an emotion or a situation in a succinct phrase. In my opinion, no other slang form is more enjoyable than Cockney rhyming slang where rhyme is incorporated.

So what is Cockney rhyming slang? It’s essentially a code. You take a word, replace that word with a word that rhymes with it, then turn it into a phrase.

Example: the word ‘Look.’ Look rhymes ‘hook.’ Turn ‘hook’ into a phrase and you get ‘butcher’s hook.’ Butcher’s hook is a classic cockney rhyming slang for look.

Other classic rhyming slang phrases include:

Dog and bone…meaning phone.
Holy water…meaning daughter.
Plates of meat…meaning feet.
Sky rocket…meaning pocket.

If you’re really clever with your rhyming slang, it can be an ironic phrase for the original word, like with ‘Trouble and strife’ which is rhyming slang for ‘wife.’

Now the fun doesn’t stop there. Oh no! Invariably, to incorporate your rhyming slang into a sentence, you would drop the rhyming word and just say Butcher’s instead of Butcher’s Hook. So if someone said to you, “Give me a Butcher’s?” The person would be asking to have a look at something in your possession.

So what are the origins of Cockney rhyming slang? It originated out of London’s East End in the mid-1900’s and was supposedly used by criminals to prevent undercover cops from listening in on their conversations. Like many things in British culture, that explanation has been disputed. While there are several other similar explanations, none seem definitive. The only concrete information is when, where and by whom.

Cockney rhyming slang still flourishes over a hundred and fifty years later. It’s no longer restricted to a particular enclave of London. It’s part of the national lexicon with regional differences and the incorporation of modern references have superseded many traditional phrases, such as ‘Chevy Chase’ overtaking ‘Boat race’ for meaning ‘face.’

The thing I love about Cockney rhyming slang is that the phrases paint colorful pictures. My favorite rhyming slang is the ‘Gypsy’s Kiss.” That creates such an imaginative visual of the story behind those two evocative words…although we should ignore that it’s actually slang for ‘piss.’ It was the evocativeness of Cockney rhyming slang that I wanted to use for this anthology. I wanted these colorful phrases to inspire the contributors to come up with a story. I chose writers from both the North America and the UK to exploit their familiarity and unfamiliarity with the rhyming slang.

To see what they came up with, turn the page and have a butcher’s.  There’s more about the book and purchase it here.

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Hooray!! My new book, the anthology called TROUBLE & STRIFE, is now available.  It’s a Cockney Rhyming Slang themed collection of stories. What is Cockney Rhyming Slang you ask?

Well, I’ll tell you.

It’s a coded language where you create/use an expression that rhymes with the word you want to use then use the expression instead of the word. For example “butcher’s hook” is used to mean “look” and “plates of meat” is used to mean “feet” and “skyrocket” is used to mean “pocket” and so on… Invariably, the rhyming portion of the expression is dropped and the non rhyming element will take over. So someone will say, “Give us a butcher’s at that?” and “My plates ain’t half hurt today” and “Here’s a tenner to put in your sky” and so on. I hope that all makes sense.

Rhyming slang is rumored to have been created by criminals to deceive undercover police officers during the Victorian era.

What I love about rhyming slang is the phrases and expressions paint such colorful images…usually unrelated to their meanings. Such as a Gypsy’s Kiss, Smash & Grab, Lamb to the Slaughter, Kick & Prance, to name a few. These phrases have the spark to ignite stories. So I invited writers from the US, Canada as well as the UK to come up with a story inspired by a particular phrase. What can you expect from the book, well this…

Babbling Brook is a talkative inmate at the state penitentiary.
Mr. Kipper is fishier than he sounds.
Half Inch is a small distance that can lead to a much longer stretch.
A hairdresser has to pay his dues for a crime that took place at Barnet Fair.
Pleasure and Pain takes on a brand new meaning in the German countryside.
And you never want to meet a Lady from Bristol.

You don’t have to understand rhyming slang to enjoy this book. You just have to enjoy a damn good story. To see what the authors have come up with you’ll have to turn the page and take a butcher’s.

All new stories featured are by Robert Dugoni, Catriona McPherson, Johnny Shaw, Steve Brewer, Paul Finch, Susanna Calkins, Sam Wiebe, Jay Stringer, Angel Luis Colón, Travis Richardson & Colin Campbell.

The book can be ordered from:

Amazon ebook
Amazon paperback
Amazon UK ebook
Amazon UK paperback
Kobo
Barnes & Noble ebook
Barnes & Noble paperback
iTunes
Google

And the Publisher

The book splashes down on today (just in time for Christmas) so I hope you’ll snap up a copy!!

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My new book is the anthology TROUBLE & STRIFE, a collection of crime stories inspired cockney rhyming slang.  The book’s release is next month so I thought I’d clue you in on what to expect.

If you don’t know what cockney rhyming slang is, here’s a little bit of background. It’s a coded language where you create/use an expression that rhymes with the word you want to use then use the expression instead of the word. For example “butcher’s hook” is used to mean “look” and “plates of meat” is used to mean “feet” and “skyrocket” is used to mean “pocket” and so on… Invariably, the rhyming portion of the expression is dropped and the non rhyming element will take over. So someone will say, “Give us a butcher’s at that?” and “My plates ain’t half hurt today” and “Here’s a tenner to put in your sky” and so on. I hope that all makes sense.  Rhyming slang is rumored to have been created by criminals to deceive undercover police officers during the Victorian era.  What I love about rhyming slang is the phrases and expressions paint such colorful images…usually unrelated to their meanings. Such as a Gypsy’s Kiss, Smash & Grab, Lamb to the Slaughter, Kick & Prance, to name a few. These phrases have the spark to ignite stories and that was the challenge I gave my writers.  What phrases spoke to them.  Here’s what I got from them.

Steve Brewer’s story is BABBLING BROOK which is slang for crook.
Angel Luis Colón’s story is BUNSEN BURNER which is slang for earner, as in making money.
Johnny Shaw’s story is DICKY DIRT which is slang for shirt.
Paul Finch’s story is MR. KIPPER which is slang for Jack the Ripper.
Jay Stringer’s story is HALF INCH which is slang for pinch as in to steal.
Catriona McPherson’s story is BARNET FAIR which is slang for hair.
Susanna Calkins’ story is TEA LEAF which is slang for thief.
Travis Richardson’s story is LEE MARVIN which is slang for starving.
Colin Campbell’s story is TROUBLE & STRIFE which is slang for wife.
Sam Wiebe’s story is A LADY FROM BRISTOL which is slang for pistol.
Robert Dugoni’s story is PLEASURE & PAIN which is slang for rain.

I hope the stories’ titles and their rhyming slang meanings give you an inklings of what to expect in the book.  🙂

The book will be out in paperback and ebook and is available on preorder.  For links to stores go here.

 

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