Simon Wood

Posts Tagged: simon wood

Damn my dyslexia!!! Usually it’s a problem (a.k.a. a pain in the arse) but for once, it did me a good turn. The idea for my new book DECEPTIVE PRACTICES came from a misread. A couple of years ago I was flipping through the TV Guide on my television and I came across a TV movie called The Green-Eyed Monster. The description said it was about a wife who hires an organization to beat up her cheating husband. That was right up my alley so I watched it. The movie had nothing to do with what I’d read. It was about a woman who fixates on her next-door neighbor’s husband. I went back through the TV Guide and found the description was accurate to the movie I just watched. How the hell I’d read what I thought I read I have no idea. The descriptions weren’t even close. It’s one of those frustrating things that comes with dyslexia. You start reading something, your imagination takes over and rewrites it all for you, and you end up with something completely different. I remember being in engineering school during a class where we had to read some chapter from a book and when we came to dissect it I seem to have been the only one in the class who’d read something completely different. Like I say, dyslexia is a pain in the arse.

When something like this happens, it usually comes with a large chunk of frustration. How can my brain be that far off on its interpretation of just a few sentences? What is wrong with me? Why can’t I just read the words in front of me? You really shouldn’t be let out in public without a seeing eye person to help you! But this time around I wasn’t so pissed off. Had my brain just handed me a book idea? What if a woman did hire an organization to beat up her cheating husband? I did a quick search on IMDb to make sure I hadn’t read the right thing but on the wrong channel and found there was no movie like that made. I let this idea grow for a bit and came up with the concept that there was an underground business that operated on a similar basis to the scared straight documentaries in that if you hired them, they would beat some sense into a wayward spouse with the aim of turning them around or getting some marital revenge. The ideas started coming and I developed a company name and their sales pitch: Do you have a cheating spouse? Has counseling failed? Want to get even with them? Then hire Infidelity Limited to teach them a lesson…

And DECEPTIVE PRACTICES was born. I know, I know it sounds like a crazy business idea but if I were to attach an app to the concept, I probably have a billion-dollar company. If it’s got an app then it’s legitimate. I think that’s how it works.

Naturally I can’t have a plot line that is that straightforward. I have to toss a few hand grenades into the mix. So the plot line for the book goes like this: Olivia Shaw is living a nice suburban life until she discovers her husband is cheating on her. When her sister suggests Infidelity Limited can offer some closure, Olivia buys their sales pitch. Olivia learns how Infidelity Limited really works when her husband turns up dead and she’s drawn into a dark web of blackmail and murder — just like all their other clients. Now, Olivia finds herself the prime suspect in her husband’s death and as the police close in on her, she has only one option—take down Infidelity Limited.

Usually dyslexia is nothing but a problem for me, but for once it gave birth to a book so I can’t knock it too much. So here’s to the next misread and all the ideas it conjures up!

Categories: shelf life

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DID NOT FINISH is a book that is very close to my heart as it’s a mystery centering on the world of motorsport. Thirty years ago, I raced open-wheel cars motorsport in the UK.

In the book, a death threat is circulating around the pits. Derek Deacon says he’ll kill his championship rival, Alex Fanning, unless Alex throws the championship deciding race. Rookie driver, Adrian ‘Aidy’ Westlake, doesn’t put too much stock in the threat. He figures Derek is just playing mind games. That changes when Alex dies on the track after banging wheels with Derek. A cover-up ensues. The police wrap up their investigation without following up on the death threat, TV coverage omits the crash and the racing community seems happy to ignore what they heard. Aidy is the exception. He feels obligated to expose the truth and finds himself dragged into a much larger conspiracy.

A real incident is the basis for DID NOT FINISH. I was competing in a regional championship where a rumor was floating around the paddock that a driver threatened to kill the championship leader if he didn’t win and, just as in the book, that driver died in a crash during the race. At the time, I felt quite helpless. There is a world of difference between an idle threat and an actual murder. What made the situation even harder for me to accept was that minutes before the race started, the driver who died had shared something with me that he hadn’t even shared with his family. It’s a confidence I’ve kept for twenty years.

Did Not Finish is not an attempt to expose a crime or rewrite history but illustrate life in the fast lane. Motorsport is an expensive game. To compete, you need more than just a bat, a ball and a pair of sneakers. You need a small army. Even at a grass roots level, it costs tens of thousands each year to own, maintain and race at a competitive level. Because of that, the desire to win gets amped up and tensions run high. Competition brings out our best, but it can also bring out our worst, so dirty tricks aren’t out of the question.

Naturally, there’s rule bending in motor racing and I can’t say I didn’t pull some stunts to help me survive in the sport. Other people I knew took more drastic measures, especially when it came to money. Some people borrowed heavily, in some cases turning to loan sharks. Others got involved in a variety of criminal pursuits to make ends meet. They ranged from misdemeanors such as theft to major felonies such as drug trafficking. Some individuals felt they had to protect their interests and did so by intimidating others or flagrant cheating. Some of the stuff that occurred is enough to make your hair curl. And in most cases, all these acts boiled down to people doing anything to hang on to their dream and win. It’s a siren song that’s hard to ignore.

Dick Francis showed the dark side of the world of horseracing, I’m hoping to do the same through Aidy’s adventures. He lives in the shadow of his famous father, the late, great driver, Rob Westlake, who died along with Aidy’s mother in an auto wreck after securing a Formula One contract. Raised by his grandfather, Steve, himself a retired Grand Prix mechanic, Aidy is following in his father’s footsteps.

As the series develops and Aidy makes his rise through the world of motor racing, he’ll be drawn into the various issues affecting the sport. And as he does, he’ll learn one thing—in motorsport, murder will always happen breakneck speed.

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I’m very topic driven when it comes to my books. I latch onto an issue, it becomes the basis of a conflict and a book is born from there. With THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY, survivor guilt was the driving force behind the story. It was a subject that had been in my head for awhile. I had the beginning of the story—two women are abducted and one of the women is given an unenviable decision—attempt a futile rescue or leave her friend in order to escape. My heroine in this case, Zoë Sutton, weighs up the odds and runs, but her life is forever tarnished by that selfish, yet logical decision.

That was the crux of the story, but I had to decide where to go from there. I knew little about the topic of survivor guilt, but at the time I was under the care of a neuropsychologist for a head injury and subsequent memory loss after crashing on my bike. I mentioned that I wanted to talk to someone about survivor guilt.

“Go to the VA.”

“But the book isn’t about soldiers.”

“Doesn’t matter. If you want to learn about post traumatic stress disorder, then go to the VA.”

I was introduced to a psychologist who counseled veterans of various conflicts going all the way back to Vietnam. I outlined the basic premise of the book and opened with a question that outlined my basic ignorance and sat back and listened. The great beauty about in-person interviews is that I don’t have any idea where they’ll go, other than nowhere where I thought.

I thought I had an idea of what survivor guilt and PTSD were but it was a good example of an outsider’s perspective. Our long and lengthy discussions got into the meat of the subject. Some of the common afflictions affecting people include sobriety, impulse behavior, isolationism, arrogance, and contempt to name a few. I’ve attempted to incorporate these behaviors into Zoë’s character which also helped drive the plot.

As I tried to absorb this information, I couldn’t help but marvel at this condition where people feel shame for surviving. You fight for your life and win, but your mind discounts the win and obsesses on the loss. The survivor takes on the emotional weight and responsibility for those who didn’t make it and it’s just too big a burden for him/her to bear. The result is that the survivor drives themselves to destruction either directly by throwing themselves into similar conflicts or indirectly through substance abuse and depression. This has to be the most paradoxical illness on the books.

But it’s this paradoxical thinking is what drew me to write about the topic. Ten years ago I was undergoing first responder disaster training. One of the modules dealt with the psychological effects of rescuing the dead and dying; making life and death decisions for total strangers. Then they told us the suicide rate for first responders and it was quite scary. A friend of mine who is both an author and veteran recently posted a stat about returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. Almost four times as many veterans have taken their lives since coming home than those who died in battle. There’s not a lot I can say to that other than we’re strange and complex creatures who don’t always make sense.

I hope with THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY I’ve made an entertaining read but at the same time, I’ve shined a light on a subject that most of us aren’t really cognizant of. If you read the book, I encourage you to let me know what you think.

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My first thriller ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN has come of age.  It was first published 18 years ago this month!  This book is very special to me because we’ve been on a quite a journey over that time.  It’s been responsible for a lot of firsts in my writing career:

  • First book I wrote.
  • First published book.
  • First mass paperback release.
  • First book to be translated.
  • First book to sell a 100,000 copies.

When I look over my writing career, this book has been the one that kept me career moving on to the stage. Although first published by a small publishing house, it picked up a lot of good trade reviews which gave me some legitimacy as a writer. That resulted in the book picking up a contract with a New York publisher. When the NY publisher folded during the credit crunch, it was the book to reboot my career I relaunched it as an ebook. The sales success of the ebook resulted in an 8-book deal with a new publisher and a new edition. And if it weren’t for that 8-book deal, I wouldn’t have the success with other books. Wherever I examine my writing career, invariably it all stems back to ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN.

This book about obscure facet of the insurance industry changed my life.  I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for it.  I will forever be in this book’s debt.

If you’d like to learn more about the book, you can learn more here.

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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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It’s been a pretty crappy last few weeks with canceled projects and events due to the Corona virus, but finally a shaft of light! I won HAW CREEK HORROR‘s contest for real life ghost stories.  I saw the call for true stories about the paranormal and on a whim, I entered.  I was quite chuffed to take the win.

The story is called MY OTHER SISTER and it’s my account of an apparition I encountered when I was seven-years-old. To this day, I can’t explain what happened but the events still haunt me now forty-five years later.

You can read the piece here and I hope it give you some chills while you are in isolation. 🙂

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Ebook distributor, Smashwords, is having an “Authors Give Back” special sale.  So for the next 30 days, a large number of my books are 30% off. This is includes some of my French language titles and the sale includes all formats to cover all ereaders.

If you need something to read during the global quarantine, please them out here & please share this post.  Thanks and stay safe.

Categories: book of the month

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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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The New Year marks twenty years since my first published work, which was a short story in a science fiction magazine.  I thought I would mark this personal landmark moment with some stats:

  • More than 20 books published.
  • Had my work translated into 10 languages.
  • Almost 2 million books sold.
  • Published by 20 publishers.
  • Over 100 short stories and articles published. 
  • A USA TODAY and a BILD (in Germany) bestseller.
  • Anthony Award winner & a Crime Writers’ Association Dagger Award nominee.
  • Mentioned by Den of Geek, Buzzfeed & Writer’s Digest.
  • Oddest publication: On the side of a coffee can.
  • Oddest book moment: The Queen talking to my dad about my books.
  • Proudest moment: Bouchercon Toastmaster.
  • Saddest moment: Too many to mention.

I never thought my writing would get me this far.  It’s rarely been an easy adventure, but I’m glad I stuck with it.  Not sure where the next 20yrs will take me.

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If you would like to get an autographed book for that special someone (even if that special someone is you) go to my bookshop.  Use promo code XMAS10, you’ll get 10% off your order.  If you live outside of the US, please contact me first. Also if there’s a book you don’t see, let me know as I may have a copy tucked away.

Thanks in advance for your order!

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