Simon Wood

Posts Tagged: working stiffs

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.

Categories: shelf life

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People see a hill and think, “What a lovely place to build a home.”  I see a hill and think, “What a great place to bury a body.”  People see a quiet stretch of shoreline and think, “What a great place for a romantic walk.”  I see a quiet stretch of shoreline and think, “What a great place to execute a snitch.”  That’s the problem I have with traveling these days.  I love visiting new places.  I want to see the world.  If I didn’t have an explorer’s heart, I never would have discovered my Julie in Costa Rica.  Now when I travel, I don’t see locations, I see crime scenes.

I’m always on the hunt for a great locale.  I say to friends, “You live in a great neighborhood.  Where would the best place be to stash a body without anyone seeing me?”  My friends are cool with it.  They roll their eyes and entertain my fantasies.  I’ve stopped asking strangers these questions.  For some reason, it scares people.  Who knew?
I’m not a keen researcher as things go.  I like to lie in my stories, but I do like to go location hunting.  Accidents Waiting to Happen is set in Sacramento.  I’d only been there a couple of months when I got to writing it, so I needed some killing grounds.  I rode around the city and its suburbs on my bicycle in search of locations.  I didn’t have a car at the time, so I didn’t have much choice there, but having the bike meant I could stop anywhere I wanted to check out. 
I live in the Bay Area now.  San Francisco isn’t so much of a cyclist’s city, so I do a lot of scouting on foot.  For one of the stories in Working Stiffs, I wanted to kill someone on the Embarcadero.  So I started at one end and walked to the other poking about.  Sadly, I didn’t find anywhere useful but did find a site at Fort Mason.  I can’t recommend Fort Mason enough to kill someone (Fictionally speaking that is.  I don’t want anyone getting ideas and pointing fingers when it goes pear-shaped.  Alright?) 
The thing is that I don’t want to talk about the same old locations that everyone else uses in their books.  This is especially a problem with the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Area.  There are plenty of us scribblers around fighting for a fresh perspective on the town, so I really need to get my hands dirty.  Just like with methods of killing, writers want to keep it fresh and new for themselves and their readers.  Well, I know I do.
So I’m always on the hunt for a good location with plenty of originality.  It’s another reason I like to write about places outside of my usual stomping grounds.  Little known places provide a wealth of killer locales.  I have a tendency to go on road trips with Julie and the dog just so that we might check out somewhere I came across in a travel magazine or on TV.  I just have to have my hands on a killer location.
Don’t be surprised if one day, you sit down next to small yet affable stranger who’ll lean in close and whisper, “Do you know any good places where I can dump a body?”  Don’t panic.  It’s probably me.  Then again, it probably isn’t.

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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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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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I’m very happy to announce that the German language rights to my crime caper, THE FALL GUY, have been picked up for print, electronic and audio editions. It’s the story of Todd Collins. He’s failed in every job he’s ever undertaken, but that all changes when he backs his jalopy in a shiny, new Porsche belonging to a drug dealer. When the police stop the drug dealer for a broken taillight that Todd has caused and discover a cocaine shipment, a West Coast kingpin holds Todd responsible. On the run from organized crime, Todd discovers his true calling.

This story has gone from strength to strength in recent years.  It first started off life as a short story called FENDER BENDER.  A publisher liked the story so much that we build the concept for my short story collection around it for WORKING STIFFS.  The editor gave me one instruction: develop FENDER BENDER into a much larger story—and THE FALL GUY was born as a short novel. Author, Scott Nicholson, urged me to release it as a standalone piece and I’m in his debt because it took off an eBook and Comet Press picked it for a paperback release. So I’m especially pleased to see it get secure its first translation contract.

I don’t have a release date for the German edition, but I’m hoping it will be before the end of the year.  At the moment, translators are being auditioned for the job.  This is always interesting to see how a translator will bring the story to life in their native tongue.  I wish I was fluent in German to see how the story will be finessed from English to German.  One thing I’m pretty sure of is that the title will change.  All my translated books have come out with totally different titles.  ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN became ABGEZOCKT(aka Scorched or Burned in English) and the Turkish edition of WE ALL FALL DOWNcame out as DEATH SONG.  So I’m intrigued to know what THE FALL GUY becomes.  J

I don’t know what the future hold for this story, but I hope it keeps on growing.  I think Todd is owed that much.

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As I mentioned a little while ago, a theater company in Seattle bought the rights to adapt my short story, THE TASKMASTERS (from ASKING FOR TROUBLE), into a stage play. Well, the theater has been booked and the date set and the play will be performed on October 20th. I’ll be there for all the festivities and I think I’ll be interviewed after the performance.

I can tell you now this will be a tough thing for me to watch. Normally, people consume my stories without me being around. This time around, I’ll be there to see their reactions. That’s kind of scary. :-/

To make the night even more Simon-centric, there will also be the first playing of a radio adaptation of my short story, OLD FLAMES BURN THE BRIGHTEST (which appeared in WORKING STIFFS).

If you’d like to attend the performance, the box office is now open. The show has been titled, Vashon Noir and tickets can be purchased to reserve seats right now by calling Blue Heron Art Center (Vashon Allied Arts) at (206) 463-5131. Callers can just ask about the “Vashon Noir” show on Oct. 20th. I hope some of you Seattlites can make it, as it’s a mighty big theater to fill. 🙂

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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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Some nice press for WORKING STIFFS resulted in a nice sales book and yesterday the book became the bestselling anthology on Amazon.

I’m really pleased for the sudden success. WORKING STIFFS was a break out book for me, so it’s good to see it doing well.

In other news, TERMINATED picked up a really nice review from the nice people over at Juniper Grove. This maintains the string of good reviews for this book. 🙂

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It’s the end of the month so ends the spotlight on WORKING STIFFS. I have to say this book holds a special fondness for me. One of the stories, My Father’s Secret , garnered an Anthony Award, which was nice. The good critical response served as a calling card which helped in part to land a book deal for my novels. Finally, I’m a short story fan.

I do have to thank Blue Cubicle Press publisher and editor David LaBounty for the book. I was trying to sell him another different book but after reading one of my stories he came up with the workplace crime theme. I do think his influence made the book what it is.

I hope my blogs have piqued your interest to check the book out. The paperback is down to its last few copies, so if you want one, I suggest you snap one up while you can. The eBook will keep its legacy alive. However, the good news is that a new paperback edition in the offing. I do have an offer I’m considering.

I also hope that you’ll spread the word about WORKING STIFFS too. You shouldn’t keep this book a secret. In the meantime, you can read a couple of stories about the book.

A Break in the Old Routine
My Father’s Secret

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Some people give me odd looks after they’ve read something of mine. They see me, they read the stories and they merge the characters and me together and see the same person. They don’t see easy-going, Simon. They see evil-doing Simon. I’m not evil doing. I’m actually very nice. I rescue animals off the street, I pay my taxes and I’ve never held up a bank (well, not in California and besides, I was very young).

Consider this quote from Cemetery Dance for WORKING STIFFS: “Consistently surprising and well-written, Working Stiffs proves Simon Wood is a criminal genius. We should all be glad he’s writing this stuff and not doing it.”

This isn’t the kind of quote I should have on a tee shirt when I visit the FBI.

That’s the problem. Readers blur the lines between the characters we scribblers create and the scribblers. I’ve been told on several occasions that I’m not a nice person based on my stories. I’ve been asked if I’ve cheated on my wife when they’ve read about a character’s infidelity. As shocking as these statements can be, I can understand them. I’ve said myself. When I tell a story, I don’t base my characters on people I know or people I’ve read about, but I place myself in the shoes of those characters and view the world how they view the world. So for all intent and purposes, I am the good guys in my stories and I’m the bad people in my stories.

But that doesn’t make it me.

I’m not living out my fantasies on page because I fear capture if I committed them in the real world. I’m not outlining my future crimes. I’m not a depraved person getting my kicks on paper. I’m nice, easy going, animal rescuing Simon. But I can conjure up crimes and motives for killing and invent people react to those circumstances and I am empathic to their sensitivities. If I was faced with the crisis of conscience that a character is faced with, I can see their point of view and follow it. that character can be a good person doing the wrong things for the right reasons or a bad person doing the wrong things for the wrong reasons. I can see it from their perspectives. But am I like them? no. would I act like them if their position? Perhaps. But the people on the page aren’t me. a lot of writers I’ve met and befriended are nothing like the people they write. Most horror writers I know are some of the most down to earth people I know. Eavesdrop on conversation at any World Horror Convention and you’re going to hear them talking about pets and their kids and not how to dismember a body a dozen way from Sunday.

Granted, characters are the writer’s alter egos and altered egos. They are the people they would like to be, possibly, but they are also the kind of people we wouldn’t like to be. But at the end of the day, there is a big distance between the writer and his darker characters—well, certainly in my case. I cant speak for everyone.

At the end of the day, I’m a storyteller and like Marvin Gaye says, I need every kind of people to tell my tales and that includes the bad ones. So the next time you read a nasty character and you start comparing the writer to that character, put some distant between the two. I know we do.

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