Category Archives: Ken Bruen

The Writer from the Writing

by Ken Bruen

Should writers live up to the expectations of their readers, should e.g. Lee Child be more Reacher in his appearances? Or Barry Eisler be more like Rain . . . Scratch that, Barry pretty much is .

My point, which I’ll eventually make, is readers get a picture of the author from what they’ve read, so is it better if they never actually get to meet the writer . . . because by Christ, most of the time, they are in for a shock.

If you write about psychos and convincingly, when your readers meet a mild gentle soul . . . are they going to go, Hello?

For a long time, readers and reviewers believed that Jim Sallis was black; he couldn’t have written such a compelling, convincing character as Lou Griffin if he were white! Jason Starr has written some of the most noir characters to come down the pike since Charles Willeford, and a few weeks back, taking his daughter to school, he got talking to one of the other dads and told him he was a noir writer. The man went, "You!"

Jim O. Born writes of the homicide squad and so believably that he won the major award last week . . . congrats, Jim. And he is just the funniest sweetest guy till you see him demonstrate weapons and talk about his daily job . . . as a cop.

Vicki Hendricks writes the sleaziest down in the gutter noir that I’ve had people say to me, "That can’t be a woman?"
And I tell them she is a lecturer and they go, "Not the same person."

Years ago, Val McDermott and I were together at a convention in Germany and as we huddled over a brew, Val said, "See, the looks?"

I did.

She added, "They figure, two hardboiled mystery writers, discussing mystery and mayhem when we’re actually exchanging photos of our kids!"

I write about the lowest of the low, the losers, the alienated, the seriously deranged and when my readers meet me, they always ask, "Are you sure you’re Bruen?"

I think so, most days anyway.

The best example of this was two years ago when I went to Dublin to meet a Sunday Times journalist, and we agreed to meet in The Shelbourne. The hotel closed a week later but the two events are not connected.

Are they?

I was early and saw a lady breeze in, all biz, power dressing, well, I mean she was English and thought that shite still mattered and was glancing furiously at her watch. I approached and asked if she was looking for Ken Bruen.

"Yes."

She gritted and, "He’s late."

When I told her I was, am . . . the person, she stared at me in total wonderment and said, "But you’ve manners?"

She’d read me books, and works, C.V. and expected a branded hell’s angel. I was a sad bitter blow.

We did the interview and she kept snapping, "Don’t do that irony on me!"

You’ll gather that we didn’t bond, become email buddies and go on to write a book together.

No.

When the article appeared, the heading was . . . Benign Thug.

I can certainly be thuggish but benign . . . I’m working on it.

Role Reversal

Julie and I have an untraditional relationship.  Julie is my hunter gatherer going out to work everyday whereas I spend half the week at home tapping away at the keyboard, doing the washing and making myself pretty for when she comes home.  All this is totally fine with me, even if Julie and her chums call me her “man bitch.”

Our untraditionality (new word—look out for it in conversations near you) took on a different phase the other week.  Julie was out of town on business leaving me at home to fend for myself with only Royston and the cats for company.  This should have been celebration time.  I could be me again.  I could do what I liked, when I liked.  We have hardwood floors, so I could reenact the scene from Risky Business where Tom Cruise bounces about in his underpants with Bob Seger blasting.  I could even get involved in some Risky Business style high jinx involving a hooker and Porsche I didn’t own.  Anything could happen when Julie wasn’t around.  My underpants and I are unstoppable!

But it didn’t go down like that.

The house was eerily quiet and foreboding without Julie. I lived alone for a number of years before Julie invaded my life, but I felt very vulnerable being on my own at nights.

The animals didn’t help the situation.  The cats kept going outside, activating the security lights and when I told them to come in, they were nowhere to be seen.  Royston’s ears would prick up at the slightest sound and I’d think—intruder.  In the end I got the feeling Royston was messing with me.  At any moment, someone (not Julie) was going to burst in and ravage me.  It was all very scary.  Who wants to be ravaged on a Tuesday night?

It wasn’t long before every clichéd horror movie churned away at the back of my head.  I expected a series of threatening phones from a woman with a husky voice telling me to check on the kittens.  The cops would trace the call and tell me it was coming from inside the house!!!  Eeeeeeeeeeeekkkkkkkkk!!!!!!!!!!!

I have no idea why I was so jittery.  Why the frady cat thing now?  I’ll admit I’ve had a lot on my mind, which has left me agitated.  Was it that—or something more systemic and more frightening?

Am I losing my manliness?

I’ll be first to admit that I’m not the big, rough, tough type.  I’m a bleeder not a fighter.  One of the things I look for in a woman is a slower runner.  I want to be the one sprinting away from trouble, calling out over my shoulder, “I’ll never forget you, my first wife.  Put up a fight for me, my love.  Taxi!”

Now that Julie’s back to protect me, I’m taking a philosophical look at our relationship.  Have our non-traditional roles changed us?  Is she becoming the tough guy in the relationship?  Am I getting in touch with my feminine side?  I don’t think so.  Julie still shrieks at the sight of ants and I still can’t do that towel turban thing that all women seem have genetically programmed.  We are still ourselves.  Now I must get back to my needlepoint and Julie has to sharpen her chainsaw—that redwood isn’t going to cut itself down.

Yours with soft edges,
Simon Wood
PS: I’m not here.  I’m in Toronto for World Horror.

When It All Gets Too Much

Writing is sometimes easy and sometimes a right pain in the arse.  When it’s the latter, it can get real intense.  There I am trying to make words fit into sentences and sentences fit into paragraphs and none of it wants to hang together.  It feels like I’m playing Jenga with sticks of TNT.  After days of banging my head against the problem, the whole thing loses meaning.  Verbs become mystical creatures that gallop lavender meadows.  I don’t know a period from hole in the ground.  In the end it feels like I’ve been staring into the sun for a week and it hurts when I look away. 

When I’ve gotten to this stage, it’s time for a break (psychotic or otherwise). There’s no point sitting at the keyboard any longer.  I have to put some distance between me and the problem by doing something else much less difficult—like creating cold fusion or solving world hunger.  Actually, I find something really mundane helps.  It’s like a palate cleanser.  It clears all my preconceptions and allows a clear flow of thoughts.  Before long, I have the answers to my problems.

So what things do I do to clear my mental logjam?  I usually take Royston for a walk.  This has sort of lost its effectiveness.  Royston used to be a Great Dane and I’ve worn him down to a dachshund.  I say, “Royston, it’s time for a walk.”  He looks at me with that “another bloody walk” look and runs away.  As soon as he hears me swearing at the computer screen, he sneaks off to hide the leash. 

Img_0539 To give Ro-Ro a rest, I do other things—mainly chores.  I work in the garden.  I have an unstoppable wall of ivy in the backyard and I get out the hedge trimmer and whittle it down to size while moaning, “Character development, my arse!”  Or I get on hands and knees yanking the weed grass out of the lawn while muttering, “So how do you garrote someone when you only have one arm?” 

Another of my decompression exercises is to do the laundry or iron our clothes.  I find it very therapeutic to separate my heavy cottons from my delicates.

Julie quite likes this little trait of mine.  Chores around the house get done.  I get the feeling that when she edits my work she’s not being entirely honest.  I believe she has an ulterior motive.  Just listen to this recent, yet telling remark.  “Simon, I don’t think this scene is quite right.  I’m not sure your character would act this way. Now, here’s a paint brush.  The bathroom needs going over.”

Now I know I could be misreading the situation, but my next book project is going to be a tough one and Julie suggested I should go for it—but lately, she’s been outlining her needs for the kitchen remodel…

Well, that’s how I decompress—how do you get away from it all when you can’t go anywhere?

Yours back from the brink,
Simon Wood
PS: Remember the phrase "Novice Hero."  Don’t ask why.  Just remember where you heard it first and be prepared to be called as a witness.

Prepared

I’m ready for the big one—even if I don’t know when or what that is.  Maybe I should explain.  Last week, I qualified to be a disaster relief worker in California after a number of training classes held over a few weeks.    Because of my day job, this was compulsory for me, but at the same time, I was interested in taking part.  When unusual offers fall in my lap, I want to learn more.  The course covered basic fire suppression, first-aid, search and rescue and running a shelter.  The classes were taught by firefighters, the Red Cross, rescue workers and nurses.  It was a little overwhelming.  I feel we only scratched the surface, but at least I have an idea of what to do now.
 
I think most of the people taking the course (me included) had a lot of preconceived notions.  These were dispelled very quickly.  It ain’t like a Hollywood movie.  Nobody runs into burning buildings without a moment’s thought for themselves and others.  There is a method—a whole bunch of it.  It was surprising how callous the decision-making has to be when it comes to search and rescue and first-aid.  Save those who can be saved and do what you can for those who can’t.  Save yourself first.  These were all tricky pills to swallow.  In the simulations, it was surprising how many people forgot that it was all make-believe.  People did what they could for their fellow man and ignored the training.  It was quite reaffirming to see people react this way, although it wasn’t the right thing to do.  I, myself, was blown away by the situation.  I forgot some of the key things told to us and what to look for.  The situation dictated that we had under one minute to diagnose someone’s condition and react accordingly.  With a dozen or so people all screaming at you at once, it’s easy to get swept away.  The simulation helped a lot.  I’d certainly be stronger next time around.  I found I could make a decision about someone and move on to someone else.  I just needed to be better at diagnosing someone’s condition.
 
No wonder there was a part on therapy for the rescue worker.  Although unlikely, I and others could be faced with some very difficult decisions.  There could be a time where the rescuer will have to walk away leaving people behind.  Survivor guilt is a big killer.  It was surprising to learn how many of the people involved in Timothy McVeigh’s arrest and prosecution committed suicide shortly after.   
 
Seeing as my home has been rocked by four small but very noticeable earthquakes over the last three months and there is a prediction of the “big one” in the next eighteen months, I’ve starting viewing things with a worried eye.  Should disaster hit, what is my preparedness?  It doesn’t look too good.  The things recommended seem like overkill—but my preparedness doesn’t even cover the basics.  I have to admit the paranoia has hit and I will be putting together an earthquake kit should we be without power, water and TV.  A hand crank DVD player is essential.
 
It’s been quite a sobering experience and will continue to be.  My training won’t stop here.  There are a number of other areas of disaster training still ahead.  My disaster worker pack sits in a secure location.
 
Regardless of the scenes witnessed in New Orleans, a lot of smart people have put together a well-thought out plan that will save lives and keep the world turning for us.  My only hope is that my training never needs to go into practice.
 
Yours cautiously,
Simon Wood

A Killer Idea

I’m back from England.  I hope Troy behaved while I was away.

Well, enough about him and more about me.  I’m in bouyant spirits at the moment.  My latest thriller, Accidents Waiting to Happen, came out last week in all its shining glory, and incidently enough, my post neatly dovetails into Louise’s post about the spark for a story and in particular the spark for Accidents.

I have a fascination for the odd and the obscure.  I’m always on the lookout for strange but real occurrences that would make for a really interesting story.  The inspiration for Accidents was the unusual business world of viatical settlements.

So what are viatical settlements and what makes them so special?   In a sense, they’re a reverse insurance arrangement.  If you own a life insurance policy and you want to cash it in, you go to a viatical settlement agent who will find someone to buy it.  The buyer will give you pennies on the dollar for your policy and take over the monthly dues on your life insurance.  In return, they will become the beneficiary when you die.  The closer you are to the grave, the bigger the payout.

Viatical settlements were aimed at the elderly and the terminally ill to cover final expenses and make their last days comfortable, but the industry really took off in the late 80’s and 90’s when HMOs weren’t covering AIDS and HIV patients.  Patients needed money for treatment and viatical settlements provided the perfect vehicle for that.  The industry hit the skids in the late 90’s when breakthroughs in AIDS drugs extended life expectancies and the payout times increased.

I saw the beauty and the beast in this arrangement.  Viaticals give people a second shot at life, or at least a comfortable end, allowing them to live out their life worry free.  On the other hand, viatical settlements are a truly ghoulish proposal.  Some companies ran late-night advertisements telling people how they could make money quick.  See a 25% return on your money in 12 months or less.  To the investor, that sounds great.  But to achieve that return, someone has to die.  There is no way to ignore the fact that the policy buyer is profiteering off the dead.

I came across viatical settlements on a TV news magazine show.  The feature was well done.  The story covered all the parties involved in one of these arrangements.  They interviewed a person with HIV who had sold their life insurance as well as a retired couple who had purchased several policies through a middleman who arranged the sales.  It was great to see a person who’d had one foot over the threshold of death’s door come back from the brink after selling his policy.  It was shocking watching the retired couple that had sunk their retirement fund into viatical settlements.  They displayed vehement disgust for the people they’d paid good money to who hadn’t had the good graces to die as predicted.

The news clip ended with a kicker and it was that kicker that really grabbed my attention.  The middleman is supposed to keep the identities of the buyer and seller confidential.  The man with HIV who’d sold his life insurance produced a birthday card.  It had arrived unsigned on his last birthday.  The message was simple and to the point.  It said: Why aren’t you dead yet?

I couldn’t let this go.  There was a book here.  Viatical settlements presented a very interesting concept.  Criminals aren’t the only ones with a price on their heads.  Everyone is worth more dead than alive, thanks to their life insurance.  And what if the beneficiaries can’t afford to wait to inherit?  A murder would lead someone to the beneficiary, but an accidental death wouldn’t.

For Accidents, I stretched the rules concerning viatical settlements a bit to create a cat and mouse thriller.  I made rules surrounding viaticals much more far ranging.  Essentially, anyone could qualify.  In the book, the lead character, Josh Michaels, takes a bribe to pay for his newborn child’s medical expenses.  His secretary blackmails him when she learns of the bribe.  To pay her off, Josh sells his life insurance policy.  Years later, when the bribe, the blackmail and the policy sale are long forgotten, he’s driving home when he’s forced off the road by another vehicle into a river.  Instead of helping Josh, the driver gives him the thumbs-down gesture and drives off.  Josh survives the accident and learns he’s not the only person having "accidents."  The one thing these people have in common is that they’ve all made a viatical settlement in the past.

Usually, truth is stranger than fiction, and I love that, but if I can get a hold of it, I’ll make that fiction a little stranger.

Yours with one eye on slaughter,
Simon Wood

Casting Call

I’m terrible with coming up with character names.  I’m alright when it comes to naming the leading players but when it comes to the supporting cast, I struggle.  I literally pull names from phone books.  It’s probably good that I don’t have kids. I can see me agonizing for a month over what I’m going to call Simon Jr. and Simone Jr. and then just pulling something from thin air.  People will come up to me at soccer practice and ask me how Ashtray and Shutter Speed are doing at school. 

So I’m a liability when it comes to naming people and here I am again, I’m putting the finishing touches on Paying The Piper and I have a whole supporting cast with no names.  This is where you come in.  I bet you’ve got an interesting name.  Want to share it with me?

For the next month, I’m conducting a casting call.  I’m collecting names and my favorite  ones will become the characters in my next book.  I have positions within the FBI, allies to the protagonist and the antagonist.  If you’d like to toss your name in the hat, please sign up here at http://www.simonwood.net/newsletter.htm or send a blank email to simonwood-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.   Feel free to share this email with friends, family and other interested parties. This isn’t meant to be a secret, so spread the word.  I’ll be collecting names until the end of March and I’ll announce the winners in my April newsletter.  There’s one exclusion though.  John and Joan Smiths aren’t welcome.

This is my last Murderati post for a couple of weeks.  Troy Cook will be filling my shoes while I’m away.  You’ll hear a lot of dirty lies about my absence, ranging from rehab partner to Lindsay Lohan to plastic surgery to increase my height.  Don’t believe them.  The truth of the matter is that I’m flying back to England for a whistle-stop tour to see family and friends before I hit the roads promoting Accidents Waiting To Happen

So be good and don’t make a mess while I’m away.

Simon Wood
PS:  I’ve finalised my book signing schedule, please check it out.

Holes

Julie said we should go to Hotel Mac for dinner.  Now, I’ve heard of Hotel Mac, but I couldn’t tell you what the place looks like, even though I’ve been there and eaten there.

"Have we really eaten there before?" I asked.

"Yes.  You said you liked it."

"I did?"

She sighed and said, "Not again."

Here’s the problem—I have holes in my memory.  Not selective ones that all spouses develop over the length of a marriage, but real holes in my memory where past experiences have been torn out.

I actually have a good memory.  Usually, I remember everything in the finest detail, including dates, places, the meals I ate and the clothes I wore, but I have these holes.  They stem from a single incident.  A car struck me when I was riding my bicycle a few years back.  I had my helmet on (which I hate), but I still hit my head hard enough to get a concussion.  The concussion left me with the usual results, like the inability to modulate the volume of my voice and forgetting I was wearing a bike helmet long after I should have taken it off.  The most amusing side effect was that the concussion knocked me back to 1997.  My brain was in English mode.  I got into the wrong sides of cars to drive and had the urge to drive on the left.  Julie took my keys away after that.  The most troubling side effect was severe short-term memory loss to the extent that I couldn’t remember a conversation I’d just finished.  The most frustrating incident involved Julie waiting for me outside with Royston to go on a walk while I sat indoors with the leash in my hand watching TV wondering why I had a leash in my hand.  But things sorted themselves out after a couple of weeks. 

Then a few months later, I noticed new problems.  I remember the hospital and I remember laughing and joking with the nurses who took me for a CT scan, but I don’t remember the scan itself.  As hard as I try, I can’t visualize the scan.  I lost other memories to the extent I could admit no knowledge and pass a polygraph.  The things I have no memory of are close to the time of the accident, but occasionally new memories fall into holes.  People I’ve met, for example.  Author, Douglas Clegg had to remind me that we’d met when I told him it was a pleasure meeting him for the first time.  I have no idea where we originally met.  I get to visit places again that I don’t remember visiting in the past.  Even when I revisit, it doesn’t spark some recognition. 

Once a hole, always a hole, I guess.

I wish I could say I find this funny, but at times, I don’t.  It pisses me off.  I hate to think I have experiences, thoughts, and ideas that slip through voids that I can never recover and like wet soap, no matter much I try to hold onto them, they slither out of my grasp.

Bugger!

I’ve noticed a little OCD creeping in, because I can’t remember if I’ve just locked doors or where I put my wallet.  I’ve instituted a series of safe places where I make a conscious effort to store things.  Now, I’m not sure if that’s absent-mindedness because I’m always so busy or the enlarging of my memory hole.  Only time will tell.

Julie decided to test me.  The Hotel Mac is one of my holes, so Julie took me to see if I would remember it.

I didn’t—but I did. 

Confused?  You should be.  I know I was.

I didn’t remember the building at all.   I thought I would and when I did, everything would come flooding back, especially as it’s a historic and distinctive building, but I didn’t.  Julie pointed it out, but dislocated memories failed to snap back into place. 

We parked up and went inside.  The interior, the décor, the menu, none of it stirred up any recollection.  But the host’s podium did.  It stuck with me because it was so weird.  The bar is downstairs with the restaurant above.  You have to climb the stairs and at the top of the stairs is a little nook where the host sits.  I remembered that, but still drew a blank about everything else about the hotel.

Julie walked me through our previous visit.  She told me where we sat and what we ate.  It was all news to me.

Nothing else came to light until we left and walked up the sloping sidewalk back to the car.  I remembered the same trek from our previous visit.

As much as I should find this escapade scary (with the memory void and all) I didn’t.  I was compelled to put my damaged memory to the test, even though it failed.

I’m sure there’s a story in this.  I just need to come up with it before I lose it in one of those damn holes. 

Simon Wood

I’m A Hero, You’re A Hero

Julie and I have gotten into the show, Heroes.  If you’ve not seen it, it’s about the belief that people with special powers exist all over the world and in a time of trouble, these people will form together to rise up against a devastating evil.  These are just ordinary people who exhibit the kind of special powers you’d find amongst the Fantastic Four or X-Men, but without the spandex and the need to wear their underpants on the outside.  It’s all very thrilling.

The characters in Heroes have the ability to fly, heal themselves, predict the future, read people’s mind and stop time, just to name a few.  All very sexy.

But that’s where the show falls down.  They’re focusing on people’s super sexy superpowers.  They don’t feature anyone with mundane superpowers.  Mundane superpowers–is that an oxymoron?

People with mundane superpowers can make a difference too, you know.  I suppose I’m a little hurt by the show, because they don’t feature a hero like me.  I have special powers.  I don’t like to brag about them or anything, but I have them.  Sadly, those powers haven’t been incorporated in the show.

Unlike the superheroes in the show, I have two special powers.  I’ve had them for a long time and I’ve yet to find a purpose for them, but I’m sure they’ll come in handy some day.

My first superpower is the ability to be ignored by automatic doors.  I can stand in front of these things for a week and they won’t open.  I can jump up and down and get nothing.  I usually have to dart in behind someone before I freeze to death outside. 

My second superpower is the ability to buy from a store any electronic or mechanical product expected to perform a function, get it home and find that it’s broken or a part is missing.  I can choose from hundreds and still find the busted one.  I’m the kind of person who’ll find a needle in a haystack, but the needle will be missing a point.

Yes, yes, these abilities are astounding.  They are my gift and my curse.  I fear I’ll pass these powers onto my children.  I know I’m already passing it onto my pets.  I was told my new kitten, Chase, was a boy.  He is a girl–who has now been renamed, Chasemina.  If I drop Chasemina, she lands on her side, head or back, never her feet. 

As a mundane superhero, I fear my superhero name wouldn’t be Batman or Wolverine, but Dud and my trusty catchphrase would be “What are you going to do?” combined with a shrug at the end.

The problem is for people like me, our mundane superpowers embarrass us.  We stay at home, afraid of the impact we can inflict on the world.  I’m sure I’m not alone in this power.  I bet many of you reading this exhibit powers you perceive as crap.  I don’t want you to be ashamed of your powers.  I want you to tell me about them.  Like the televisual Heroes, we too could band together to prevent a mild inconvenience on the world, as we don’t quite have the stuff to avert a global calamity.

So I ask you, what’s your mundane power?  Go on.  Unimpress me.

Yours, not saving the world,
Simon Wood
PS: This first appeared in my newsletter earlier this month, and appears here by request. 🙂
PPS: I’m not here.  I’m in Seattle for Left Coast Crime and if you’re not reading this, you’re probably there with me.
PPPS: Gregory Huffstutter debuts a new column on MJ Rose’s BUZZ BALLS AND HYPE called The Ad Man Answers. Stop by and take a look.
PPPPS: I’m done.  You may now go about your business.

Ladies’ Man

It’s time to break out the polyester pants, the faux silk shirt and the big medallion, cuz I’m a ladies’ man. 

Well, not quite.  Not in the John Travolta/Saturday Night Fever sense, anyway.  I would need a ladder to climb into those platform shoes.  But I have become a ladies’ man by being elected president of the Northern California Chapter of Sisters in Crime.  My illustrious tenure began January 1.  I ran a clean campaign never once going negative and they still voted me in.  Bugger!

It’s always been a dream of mine that one day, I’d have dozens and dozens of women under my control, all bending to my will.  Except, I’ve been married eight years and I’ve never had control over Julie for five minutes.  I’ll say to Julie, “Make my dinner, wench,” and I end up being locked out on the patio and told to think about what I’ve said.

So I’m scared.

I’ve never run anything like this before.  I’ve gotten involved with things before, but I’ve never been the front man.  I’ve always been content to hide behind others.  It’s not that I don’t like responsibility.  I’m just not a fan of the spotlight.  But you can’t be a shrinking violet in the writing world.  As a scribbler, you are just as an important part of the book as the book itself.  So I’ve done a lot of things I wouldn’t normally do.  I give talks.  I hold book signings that no one attends, although being mistaken for Stuart Woods’ nephew has gotten me a few book sales I wouldn’t normally get.

So here I am about to run the NorCal chapter of Sisters.  Who would have thought?  Actually, I’m pretty excited about my new job.  I see loads of things that need improving.  I think it’s going to be fun, but I also know it’s going to be a lot of hard work.  There is a lot I want to do for our published and unpublished members.  The sad thing is that I can see I need more time than my twelve-month reign will allow.  I hate leaving things half done, so I can see myself running again.  But I’m not sure they would vote for me twice.  Would you want this face molding your future twice?  Well would you?

Yours, a faithful servant to women,
Simon Wood
PS: Accidents Waiting to Happen is Dorchester Publishing’s Thriller of the Month in March and they even said so in writing.  I think they might just like me.
PPS: You can find the winners of my ARC giveaway can be found here.

Save The Last Draft For Me

Things are getting quite exciting in Simonville.  I received the ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies) for Accidents Waiting To Happen last week and the preproduction galleys a couple of months ago.  The book will be on bookshelves in six weeks. 

So, am I satisfied with the end product?  No, not really.

The problem is every time I read the book, I want to tinker, and boy have I done some tinkering.  Just to explain, Accidents was first published in 2002 by a small press.  When I submitted the manuscript, I considered it to be the final draft.  When the rights returned back to me in 2005, I decided I wanted to get the book republished.  It didn’t get a fair crack in the marketplace and I wanted to see if I could resell it.  It would have been easy to shove the thing in the mail without looking at it, but I thought I should give the book the once over before sending it.  I rewrote the book. If you compare 2002 version with the 2007 version, the first sentence isn’t even the same.  This wasn’t some manic aberration; I saw how I could do things better.  I’d changed as a writer.  Accidents was the first major thing I started writing back in ’98.  During the re-read, I saw things that I didn’t see back then.  Better things.  Sharper things.  The book didn’t need a polish.  It needed stripping back to the bare wood, a coat of fresh stain applied then some lacquer.  There was nothing fundamentally wrong with the original, but I saw a different way of telling the same story.  I think the revised and updated version is a reflection of me as a more grown up writer (please take the grownup part with a pinch of salt.  On second thought make that a fist of salt).   

So, am I satisfied with the new and improved end product?  No, not really.

The problem is when I received the galleys a little while ago, I saw there was room for tweaks.  A little touch here.  A little touch there.  A cute new angle on a couple of the scenes.  Maybe my bad guy should drive one of those Pontiac Solstices?  I like those.  He’d look mega bad in one of those bad boys.  I had to stop myself at that point.  I wasn’t making changes for changes sake, but each day I saw a different point of view on the story.  I’m always going to see spots where I could change a word, detail or even a scene. 

A common question I get asked is how many drafts I go through before the book is ready.  The last draft is when I’m sick of looking at the damn thing.  There’s a point when I’ve put everything into the story that I can possibly put into it.  This point usually comes after spending two hours debating with the cats on whether a character should tie his necktie in a Windsor or half-Windsor knot.  Unfortunately, put a few months distance between the manuscript and me and my brain has had time to come up with new ideas on the same subject.  I shouldn’t be allowed to think.  This is why I haven’t read the ARCs for Accidents and I don’t plan on doing so.  Enough is enough.  The book is finished.  It’s as good as it’s going to be.  The real answer to how many drafts I need to write before the book is ready is there is no final draft.  I can always make improvements.  As I improve as a writer, I get more critical of my work.  I can always do better.

So am I satisfied with the final end product?  Yes, I am.  I think Accidents is a good book and I hope everyone else will too…

Yours critically,
Simon Wood

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