Simon Wood

Posts Categorized: shelf life

A film student in India is going to make a short film based on my CWA Dagger Nominated short story, PROTECTING THE INNOCENT. It’ll be interesting to see how it turns out. 

I will be posting a link to the movie when it’s finished for everyone to see.

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My ever-popular online workshop on KILLER SUSPENSE writing starts on May 2nd. This workshop blossomed out of a piece I wrote for Writers’ Digest and there’s now interest for me to develop into a book. So if you want to learn how to inject some drama and conflict into your fiction, here’s what to expect from the workshop and you can sign up here:

You’re reading. Your heart is slamming against your ribcage, your fingertips are moist and you turn another page. The protagonist’s back is up against the wall and the antagonist is setting up a trap. You wish you could do something to prevent the protagonist from walking into it, but you can’t. You are helpless, totally at the mercy of the writer. You turn another page.

If you’ve ever felt this way while reading a book, then the writer has done a great job at creating suspense—and if you continue to read all the way to the end, the writer has also done a great job of maintaining it. So how do you, the writer, go about creating the same for your readers? KILLER SUSPENSE reveals the tricks of the trade for creating top notch suspense in your writing, whether it be a cozy or a spy thriller. The intensity might be different but the techniques are the same.

Lesson Plan:

  • Lesson #1: Understanding Suspense—Thrillers vs. Mysteries
  • Lesson #2: Viewpoints
  • Lesson #3: Heroes and Villains
  • Lesson #4: Elements of Suspense #1—High Stakes, Pressure Points & Dilemmas
  • Lesson #5: Elements of Suspense #2—Time Constraints, Complications, Unpredictability
  • Lesson #6: Suspense Plan Review

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More conference news!

On May 14th, I’m going to be a presenter at the Killer Workshop presented by Capital Crimes & Palmetto Sisters in Crime chapters. This is a 1-day virtual & in-person conference. Yes, I will be there in person. After two years of being shut in from the world, I am emerging where I get to see real life people. I think I’ve forgotten what that feels like.

My workshop will be on short stories. If you’d like more details, go here.

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My online workshop on Point-of-View writing starts on April 4th. Oddly, 2022 has proved very popular for this topic. I’m slated to give a shortened version of this workshop to four different writing organization this year already. If you want to learn how to keep your POV straight in your books, here’s what to expect from the workshop and you can sign up here:

Can’t decide who’s the best character to tell your story? You don’t have to settle for just a single character’s point of view. I’ll discuss the techniques and the decisions that have to be made when writing in multiple points of view.

Weaving multiple viewpoint characters in and out of a story is like standing trial and knowing what the judge, the prosecuting attorney and all 12 members of the jury are thinking. Each person is witnessing the same information, but each individual interpretation is different. But it’s not like you can crack into everyone’s mind simultaneously. Even if you could, it’d be impossible to comprehend what 14 people are saying if they’re all talking at the same time.

Allowing multiple characters to tell your story can add depth and insight that a single point of view may not be able to convey. Most stories have plenty of characters with their own tales to tell. Multiple POV characters add depth to a novel. Suddenly the story is being told from the perspective of multiple witnesses, all putting their distinctive interpretations on events. But the inclusion of multiple voices can bring with it its own problems. Those multiple points of view can get out of control and turn the story into a mess. In a novel, just like in a conversation, not everyone can speak at once. There are plenty of ways to give each character a voice without having them talk over one another. Even if you’re only writing from a single point-of-view or utilizing an omniscient POV approach, going through these exercises will help ensure there’s a smooth transition between characters.

Lesson Plan:

  • Lesson #1: Creating a hierarchy of POV characters
  • Lesson #2: Limit the number of POV characters
  • Lesson #3: Pick the right character for the right job
  • Lesson #4: POV Toolbox Tricks #1— Use chapter and/or scene breaks & Changing Spaces
  • Lesson #5: POV Toolbox Tricks #2—Passing the baton, Mixing perspectives & Using distinctive voices
  • Lesson #6: POV Plan Review

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2022 is turning into the year of the conference speaker for me. I, along with Leslie Budewitz and Jessica Brody, will the presenters at a virtual conference on fiction writing on May 14, 2022! It’s put on by the Northwest chapter of the Mystery Writers of America. I will be discussing point-of-view writing. Check out “MWA-NW MAY 2022 MINI CONFERENCE ON CRAFT” and signup here!

I hope to see you there.

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No, SinC-Up! isn’t an NSYNC tribute act. It’s a video series put out by Sisters in Crime. Each week a writer gives a 2-minute writing tip and I am this week’s tipper (or is it tipster)! Anyway, please enjoy this video and the others in the series.

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My writing life is very much like a duck on a pond.  It looks as if all is smooth and calm as the duck guides along the water.  However, what the observer can’t see is all the thrashing going on below the surface.  That’s how I approach my career as a writer. To my audience, everything is calm and collected because I work hard to keep control of all the chaos that goes on behind the scenes.  Today, I’m going to clue you in on some of weirdness that I’ve hidden from you all.

Recently, I was asked about odd incidents that have occurred during my writing career. Let me say there’ve been a lot. Over the last couple of months, I’ve been recounting some of my weirder experiences on social media for discussion and I thought I would share some with you.

  • Said to me at a book signing: “You have amazing skin for your age. How old are you again?”
  • I was held at knife point by an attendee at a private book signing.
  • A reader gave me cheese-flavored cat food as a gift at a book signing.
  • Said to me by an attendee just before I was going to make a speech: “My son wrote very well in high school and he would have been on the New York Times bestsellers list if he pursued it so I just want to let you know you’re nothing special.”
  • I have made several interviewers cry during an interview.
  • I was put on a bookstore blacklist.
  • The most commonly asked question at my book signings: “Where are the restrooms?”
  • A translator threatened to rewrite the book’s ending if I didn’t because they found it offensive. I didn’t.
  • Once, event security blocked me from entering my own event not believing I could be an author.
  • Said to me at a book signing: “I’m going to return it after I’ve read it. I haven’t paid for a book in years.”
  • Early on in my career, I had a stalker. It went on for about a year.
  • The first time I saw my book in a store, I stalked the person who picked up a copy to see if they bought it.
  • My nonfiction has been plagiarized…a lot!
  • I was booked to speak to a large group of writers when I got there, it was three writers in a storage room.

I hope you’ve liked these glimpses into my crazy writing world.  If you’d like to hear more, let me know.

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I’m the current guest on the podcast WISH I’D KNOWN THEN… with Jami Albright and Sara Rosett.  Some of the things we discussed included my writing successes, failures and the things I wished I could get a do overs for.  You can listen to the episode below.  I hope you enjoy it

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The inspiration for No Show began with a real life incident that happened over twenty years ago. When I came to the US, it was for love (yes, awww…). I had met an American girl in Costa Rica and we hit it off. We carried things on after Costa Rica. Every few months we would meet up in a different country. After a couple of years of this, we decided to take things to the next stage and settle in the same country as husband and wife. I was the one with the fewest attachments, so I made the decision to leave England for America. I left my job, sold my house, reduced my possessions down to what I could pack into a couple of bags and jumped on a plane.

I arrived at San Francisco International airport very excited at the prospect of a new life in a new country. I entered the arrivals lounge expecting to see Julie with a ‘Welcome to America’ sign or some such thing. Instead I saw a sea of strangers’ faces. Julie wasn’t there. I was disappointed not to see her, but I knew Bay Area traffic could be rough and guessed she was stuck in it. The smart thing was to wait in arrivals because she’d be there in a minute.

Then the minutes piled up and my imagination began to churn. There was late and there was late. Had she gotten cold feet and changed her mind? It was possible. We were taking a huge leap of faith. Had she had an accident? If she had, I had no way of finding out. And regardless of the outcome, what was I going to do now?

And this was where things got a little tricky. I hadn’t concerned myself with the minutia of such details as bringing her address or her phone number. I didn’t need to worry about such things, as Julie was my guide in the US the same way I was her guide in the UK.

Just as panic was sinking its teeth into me, Julie arrived an hour or so late and full of apologies for the hideous traffic. I’d arrived on a day when three events were taking place at the same time in the city.

Crisis over. Disaster averted. OverdramaNoShow2tic imagination quelled.

Well, not quite. Our missed connection taught me a valuable lesson—have a Plan B, because I hadn’t realized until that moment how carried away I was with the romance of what I was doing. I suddenly became aware of how little homework I’d done for myself. I didn’t know how America worked.

The bigger question my overactive imagination kicked up was—what would I have done if Julie hadn’t turned up. Got the next flight home? Looked for her? As these thoughts piled up on each other, I saw how unprepared I was for my new life. I’d put all my faith in Julie and if something had happened to her, I was a lost. Was this naïve of me? Yes, but we take our eye off the ball sometimes.

When it comes to my books, I like to put characters in difficult circumstances. Naturally, my thoughts came back to my first day in the US. No Show gave me the chance to play with my neurosis and the paranoia of that day and explore the worst possible outcome—my wife going missing.

As for real life, Julie and I will have been married twenty-two years at this month and she’s yet to go missing on me.

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For every seventeen-year-old male in the UK, the number one purchase is a car. It’s a rite of passage–the first step towards adulthood and independence.

I was in engineering college when I turned seventeen. My birthday occurred late in the school year and several of my friends had already turned seventeen, passed their test and gotten cars–albeit jalopies for a couple of hundred quid.

John was the first of us to get his wheels, a ’72 Ford Cortina. Instead of running for the train to get to and from college, we rode with John. The convenience of car ownership was all too apparent to me, even by proxy. The responsibility of this convenience came a few weeks later. We’d returned back from lunch to the college parking lot. John found a stall behind the science block and went to park. He backed the car up, doing all the right things, but his skill deserted him and he reversed into the side of the Vauxhall Cavalier. There was no mistaking the buckling of sheet steel.

We all froze and waited for John’s reaction. Panic spread across his face. He had just kissed goodbye any possibility of a no claims insurance bonus.

“Do you think anyone saw?” he asked us.

The parking stalls were pretty secluded from the main parking lot. We looked around and saw no one.

“We’re going. Cool?”

We didn’t reply, just nodded. John burnt rubber and parked on the street a couple of blocks from the college. We walked back to our afternoon classes. John told us we weren’t to talk about this. He was stern, but I noticed his hands were shaking. He knew the crime he’d committed and the one we were accomplices to.

I was beginning to think we’d gotten away with it by mid-afternoon, until the cops interrupted second period. Two officers walked in with one of the college lecturers and some kid I didn’t know. One of the cops asked for John by name, but not the rest of us.

My heart was pounding, so I couldn’t imagine what John’s was doing. Unlike most college kids, we had more to lose than the rest. We were employed by an array of big name companies underwriting our college education and paying us a salary.

John came back thirty minutes later, looking sheepish. We were forced to wait until break to find out what had gone down with the police. We’d thought our crime had gone undetected but we were wrong. One of the other lecturers had witnessed the fender bender from the classroom. The lecturer not only knew us, but he knew the name of the second year student who owned the Cavalier. Giving the cops their due, they were pretty cool about it all, all things considered. They weren’t pressing any charges as long as John paid for the damage. They would be checking in with all parties to make sure amends were made.

John made good on his error and the event never made it back to our respective employers or parents. We all learnt our lesson. It was a stupid thing to do and we were damn lucky to have gotten away with it.

About a year later, a form of retribution came knocking. Kevin (who’d been in the car with us) came back from lunch to find a broken headlight and a note under his windshield wiper. The note said: People think I’m leaving you my name and address. I’m not.

No one had witnessed the incident and Kevin was left to carry the expenses.

These two incidents have always stuck with me. It’s one of those situations where I’d been on both sides of the equation, even if it was by proxy. So when it came to writing THE FALL GUY, my thoughts fell upon these two incidents and the storywas born. In the novel, the down on his luck protagonist, Todd Collins, backs into a Porsche and leaves a note not dissimilar to the one Kevin found under his windshield. This sets in motion a series of calamities, which winds up with Todd being indebted to organized crime and spending the rest of the story trying to get the monkey off his back.

I don’t know if I wrote the story as a penance or a warning to others, but it may have something to do with a theme that occurs in many of my stories. A crime, even a little one, can’t remain covered up for long. I learned that when I was seventeen.

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