Simon Wood

Posts Tagged: crestfallen

It’s the end of the year, so I’m being a reflecty. I won’t say it’s been my best year ever but it’s been pretty good all things considered.
It’s been a pretty good writing year.  I didn’t have a new book out this year but I did have two re-issues in the form of DID NOT FINISH & HOT SEAT.  I also had two books translated into German and it was a lot of fun working with editors and translators tailoring a story to a foreign culture.  I was happy to see some new short fiction out in the form of THE FRAME MAKER & PATHFINDER and CRESTFALLEN.  I finished THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY and I think it’s turned out well.  And book sales have been pretty good.  A couple of titles are still waiting to be discovered though.  Readers really do need to get on that.
Bouchercon was a highlight although a scary one.  It was a great honor to be the toastmaster at this year’s World Mystery Convention.  Public speaking is something I do because I have to and not something I enjoy, so it’s hard to say I had fun, but I was more than happy to have done it.  I was touched by some of the remarks made by some of my favorite authors.  As scary, touching, exciting and tiring as it all was, I would do it again.    
This year has been a year where people have wanted me for my mind and not just my words.  I seem to be building a reputation for my industry knowledge.  I did put on several seminars for writers and a publisher hired me as a consultant to help with a book launch.  I want to keep building in this direction as it’s good to have an additional string to my bow.
Away from the keyboard there’ve been some good things too.  I’ve continued to improve cycling prowess.  My times were better across all events although I’ve yet to crack a 100k in 3hrs.  For me, cycling is where I do all my story thinking.
On the home front, things came together albeit with a little elbow grease.  After last year’s debacle with our mortgage lender who nearly financially ruined us with their incompetence, we’ve paid off the mortgage, replaced the windows, installed solar and gone with a tankless water system.  We’re now lean and green, but more importantly, we’re self supporting.  Being a writer means being an independent contractor, so by keeping overheads low, I can weather any writing storms that should come my way.  
There have been a couple of disappointments along the way.  A TV pilot deal fell by the wayside along with a few other things.  August proved particularly hard on the soul where three publishing deals fell through.  Naturally, these things happen and as a writer, you just roll with the punches and move on to the next opportunity.

Overall 2014 has been solid.  It’s been another good foundation year where I’ve continued to solidify my position as a full time writer.  I’m quite excited about next year.  There are some good things planned for THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY.  I’m hoping to seal the deal on some new things.  All in all, I hope it’s going to be a big year.

That’s me, but what about you?  How’s your year been?

Categories: shelf life

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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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I’m happy to announce the release of a new collection of short crime stories called CRESTFALLEN.  The collection features San Francisco private investigator, Peter Crestfallen.   In fine PI style, he has a penchant for attracting problem clients. He’s the kind of gumshoe who’ll always give a hundred percent, even if it’s for a ten percent return.  The stories in this collection are:

In CRESTFALLEN’s V.I.P., Crestfallen has to track down a stolen teddy bear for a senior citizen and he’ll have to go up against the White House to retrieve it.

In CRESTFALLEN’s GETAWAY, Crestfallen has to smuggle a mob accountant out of San Francisco.

In CRESTFALLEN’s KINK, Crestfallen is hired to find out what a housewife does in her off hours and is drawn into a dark world of alternative lifestyles.

In CRESTFALLEN’s WIDOW, Jane Staam hires Crestfallen to prove she didn’t kill her terminally ill, millionaire husband.

The Crestfallen stories appeared in a number of anthologies over the years but he was a character I put on ice to work on other projects.  However I’m considering resurrecting him, as during my recent house move I discovered a manuscript for a novel I’d been writing.  It was inspired by a local incident in the 50’s and I thought would make for a nice back story.  The book needs work.  So I’m interested in what you think of Crestfallen and whether you’d like to hear more from this guy.  Enjoy! 

Order the book from these stores:
Kindle UK
Kindle Canada

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