Category Archives: Simon Wood

An interview with the ever fabulous Simon Wood

by Toni McGee Causey

Many of our ‘Rati know and already love Simon Wood, an alumni of Muderati from ‘back in the day. (See his blogs linked over in the sidebar.) I am absolutely delighted to get the chance to get to know him a little better.

He is, as you will see, pretty damned terrific, and with a (seriously, great) new book out, LOWLIFES, I know you’ll enjoy this one and want to go grab the book as soon as possible.


On with the interview:


TMC: What drew you to writing crime fiction?

SW: Old movies.  As a kid, I loved watching the black and white noir movies of the 40’s and 50’s as well as the movie serials such Sherlock Holmes (with Basil Rathbone), Charlie Chan, the Saint, The Falcon, etc.  From there, I developed a love of the genre, which led me to reading the books.


TMC: What types of crimes interest you the most? Is there a theme that runs through all of your works? Related themes? If so, what are they, and why do these appeal to you?

SW: Decisions are what interest me most about crime fiction and it’s a theme that runs through all my stories—not intentionally, but it’s a topic I’m drawn to again and again.  Decisions are the things that land characters in trouble.  Anytime a character thinks they can get away with bending the rules.  What series of actions has a villain made to make them the criminal they are?  And how similar are the hero and villain and what will these people do to condemn or redeem themselves?  It comes down to the decisions they make. 

In most of my books, the protagonist usually strays from the straight and narrow and it leads to whole world of trouble.

I think the fascination with decisions with respect to crime comes from some of the people I grew up with.  Several of the kids I grew up with ended up as killers or hardened criminals.  They were no different than me.  In most cases, they grew up in much better environments than I did, but for some reason, they took a path in life that led them down roads they could never work their way back from.


TMC: What is the biggest risk you’ve taken in your life?

SW: I would say coming to America.  I met my wife, Julie, in Costa Rica in ’96.  A relationship developed but she lived in the US and I lived in the UK.  We used to meet in different countries every few months.  We came to the decision that we wanted to take our relationship to the next level.  So I left a good job with good prospects, sold my house and moved to the US with no job, all to see if I could make a relationship work with a girl I didn’t know very well.  It didn’t seem like a huge risk at the time, but it seems slightly insane now.  J  That said, if I hadn’t taken that risk, I would have never gotten into writing.  Now wouldn’t that be a shame?


TMC: What five words (alone, or as a sentence), describe you best?

SW: Most likely to start trouble.


TMC: What makes you cry? laugh?

SW: My pets.  I rescue animals and my household is filled with four legged critters who possess the capacity to fill me with joy and break my heart.


TMC: What (other than politics or religion) makes you feel outraged, wanting to rant?

SW: Alien abductees—what made them so special?

Cell phone users—put the damn thing down.  We can all hear you and you aren’t that interesting.

Parking lot trawlers—people who’ll bring a parking lot to standstill while they wait for a good parking spot that doesn’t exist yet instead of just parking.

People who wear flip-flops—get some proper real shoes.

Nearly sports—cheerleading and competitive eating aren’t sports.

Reality TV—what’s so real about it?

Prius drivers—it doesn’t give you license to push everyone else around on the road.

Dell computers—I swear they’re designed to implode the day after their warranty runs out.


TMC: What is your favorite curse word?

SW: I’m a combinationist.  I like to put swear words together to make a super swear word.  I don’t have a favorite one.  They’re usually tailored to suit the situation.


TMC: What is the most interesting thing you’ve done in the pursuit of research?

SW: Worked for a Private Investigator.


TMC: Are you the person you thought you’d be growing up? How are you different?

SW: Nope.  I think I had a clear plan of where life was going to take me.  Now, I don’t have a clue.  Life’s way too unpredictable.  I’m an engineer who writes fiction and lives 5,500 miles from home.  That was never in the script.


TMC: What would you change about yourself?

SW: Physically, I wish I were an inch or two shorter.  Personality-wise, I wish I saw the bright side instead of expecting the worst.


TMC: What would you keep the same?

SW: My ability to turn a bad situation around.


TMC: On to book questions:

Tell us a little bit about the genesis of your current book.

SW: Lowlifes is my current book and it centers on
 Larry Hayes, a San Francisco Police Detective who wakes up in an alley with no memory of the last four hours, but suspects he might have killed his own informant, a homeless man called Noble Jon.  What makes this book different from anything else I’ve written is that it’s a multimedia story.  Larry Hayes’ point of view is played out through the book, while a short film told from the POV of another character supports the story and another character gives their account through a fictional blog.  Filmmaker, Robert Pratten, approached me last year to collaborate with him on the project.  He asked me to write the various facets based on his basic outline.  The whole thing was written in a way that the book can be read by itself, but if someone goes the extra mile and watches the movie and reads the blog, they’ll get a far more in-depth view of the characters.  As something I hadn’t done before, I jumped at the idea.  People can go to to read the book and blog and watch movie.

[toni’s note — I find this utterly fascinating, this integration of media. I would love to see more of this, particularly in the e-book world, where the multi-media could be played out on iPads and their ilk.]


TMC: What else is happening in Simon World?

SW: I secured the rights back to all four of my titles from my print publisher, Accidents Waiting to Happen, Paying the Piper, We All Fall Down and Terminated.  I’m happy about this as I can explore options.  I’m currently following up on interest in audio books and translation.  Sadly, all four titles are hard to find in print form these days, but I’ve just uploaded them as eBooks.  I’m looking forward to the second lease of life I can give these books.


TMC: And finally, tell us a little bit about your next book–something we won’t know just by looking at the flap cover or the reviews.

SW: Did Not Finish is my next book and this is the first book in a series based in the world of motor racing.  I raced open wheel in the UK a long time ago and for years I’ve wanted to do to motor sport what Dick Francis did for horse racing.  I wanted to give the public some insight on my chosen sport (fictionally speaking that is).  The sport is teeming with some great fables and events that provide great potential for mystery fiction.  I’m going to enjoy blending fact and legend to tell some entertaining crime stories. 

You can find Simon at his website, or on Twitter or Facebook

Okay, question for you fellow ‘Ratis… do you have a road not taken? A “there but by the grace of God go I” moment where your life changed (thankfully)? I’d love to hear it. And meanwhile, all commenters are eligible to be entered for a $25 gift card to an online store of your choice award–(remember the indies). 

Winner from two weeks ago:  Mit! Congratulations, Mit! Email me at and let me know your bookstore of choice and an email address where you’d like to receive the card.





For Pet Lovers

By Allison Brennan

Once again, I’m stuck for time. I have copyedits coming on Wednesday, and a short story due a week from Monday–that now I have to get done early because I only have five days for copyedits. When it rains it pours!

So after writing all afternoon (after a football game and a soccer game), I’m brain dead. So when Pari asked us if anyone wanted to write a post for our good friend Simon Wood, I jumped at the chance! Why? Because it’s easy for me to talk about my pets, and I like Simon.

My mom was never a cat person, so we always had dogs growing up. My first dog was a Sheltie, and I’m still partial to them. After Shotzi was hit by a car when I was four, my mom turned to smaller dogs–a little poodle mix (Misty) then a pomeranian (Becky.) But I was always a cat person in my heart.

My first cat was my grandpa’s. Spooky was black with white paws and he didn’t like anyone but my grandpa. (It might have had something to do with the fact that grandpa bought him liver and gave him a little every night for his “dessert.”) I made it my life’s mission to get Spooky to like me. It took months, but I became a tolerable to the cat. When my grandpa died, I inherited Spooky.

In college, long after Spooky was gone, my roommate and I rescued a kitten from a fraternity. It’s not that they would have hurt him, but we didn’t want to take the chance. Nixon became my cat, and traveled with me wherever I went. As a kitten, he loved the car. When I got a job in Virginia, I flew him cross country. After that, he hated travel.

It was Nixon who converted my dog-loving husband to tolerate cats. Why? Because Nixon acted like a dog. He came when you called him, he did his business outside in the garden, and he didn’t scratch the furniture. (Though, why Dan would care about that considering his dog, a chocolate lab, ATE not one, but TWO sofas!)

Nixon came down with cancer when he was only seven, and there was nothing we could do because it had spread so fast. I was pregnant at the time, and so heartbroken because he was my first pet that was all mine. I’d had other cats that I’d acquired and found homes for over the years–all while I had Nixon–but they were more like friends who came and went, and Nixon was family.

Nixon also trained our puppy, Curly (a friend of ours had a surprise litter just before we were married), to like cats, and the two of them were best buddies. After Nixon died, Curly was as sad as we were.

Shortly after my daughter (#2) was born in 1996, I went to the grocery store and people were giving away kittens. Two were left, curled up in a box, one orange and white like Nixon and one a dark tabby. I took them both and blamed post partum depression when my husband balked. (After all, I had just given birth to a ten pound baby, I could get away with almost anything at that point.)

We named them Toulouse (left) and Neelix (right), and because Nixon had trained Curly so well, we had no problems with the dog getting along with the cats. She knew who was boss (the felines.) In 2005, Neelix disappeared–we thought he might have been injured by a car or animal and wandered off to die. He was known to bring rabbits and huge rodents and birds to our back porch. He may, in fact, have been the only cat to deliver us a baby bunny on Easter morning. Thank God we woke up before the kids!

Toulouse was a character. He used to torment my younger daughter by always sleeping on her toys. Her favorite stuffed animal was this Mickey Mouse, and Toulouse loved to drag it from her room and sleep on it. If there was a piece of paper on the floor, he’d be curled up on it. Anything new became his bed for the day.

Below is Toulouse in the dog’s water bowl:


One Christmas, he found an empty box:



And then our kids left the skateboard out one spring day . . .



He found more innovative places to sleep as he got older. He liked getting into cabinets, or finding the one toy that was sure to bring the most attention:


Being cute by the garden statue:



Being not-so-cute on top of the toaster:



And two months before he died, we still don’t know how he had the energy to jump onto the counter, open the coffee cabinet, and jump up to the third shelf:


It was nearly two months ago when we had to put Toulouse to sleep. He was well over 14 years. Toulouse had a tumor for years, but because of the location and his age, it was safer not to perform surgery. He survived happily for nearly five years, but the tumor grew suddenly and quickly and we had no options once he stopped eating. Then two weeks ago, my daughter’s boyfriend asked my permission to give her a kitten for their 6 month anniversary. I went with them to the Sacramento SPCA to pick him out, and we brought home an orange and white tabby we named Nemo. Nemo can never replace Toulouse, but we love him just as much! When he woke up my daughter in the middle of the night to play, she brought him to my room and said, “Nemo won’t let me sleep!” I told her that sounded familiar, but at least he wasn’t wet, crying, and hungry. (I probably should have used the event as a life lesson about sex and babies, but it was 3 in the morning.)


Meet Nemo




When Murderati alum Simon Wood asked if we would post a special charity appeal here, I agreed because we just had a wonderful experience at the pound getting Nemo, and part of the great experience was having the foster parents comments about all the cats–which ones were good with kids, other animals, etc. That was invaluable to us as adoptive cat owners, because it would have broken my heart to find out after a few days that our new cat hates little kids. Fortunately, Nemo fit in perfectly!

So from Simon:


This is for the animal lovers out there.
 I doubt anyone is aware that my wife and I foster animals for the ASPCA and other organizations.  We usually take the no hope cases, where the animals aren’t expected to survive or need specialist care.  Over the last few years, we’ve rescued dozens of cats and dogs and found them new homes.  Our family pets are all rescues — ones that we couldn’t give up after the care we’d given them. 
 Our cat, Bug, was one of those rescues we couldn’t let go of after we’d taken him in.  After five fun fill years, Bug died last week.  He was a great cat and a lot of fun to have around the house.  We’re going to miss him a lot. 
 In Bug’s honor, I’m going to donate all eBook royalties earned at Amazon and for the next two weeks to Best Friends, an organization I truly admire. This applies to the following titles: 
 Please feel free to share this appeal on Twitter, Facebook or your blog.  If there’s a strong showing, I’ll extend the appeal.  
 Thanks for listening, 


So you get to read a great story for a couple bucks, and Simon gives the money to a worthy charity!


And I’ll up the ante. I’ll donate $25 to Simon’s charity in the name of the first person who guesses how we named Toulouse, plus I’ll send you FEAR NO EVIL, my Daphne du Maurier award winner which introduces Lucy Kincaid–just in time to read the book before I launch her series on December 28 with LOVE ME TO DEATH.


Also, share with us how you ended up with your most recent pet, or another funny (or special!) animal story. (For example, my brother-in-law the wildlife biologist visited us one day–and his car broke down and he stayed overnight–with a mountain lion cub. They are NOT cute. The cub, named Flash, has been integrated with the mountain lions at Folsom Zoo, a rescue zoo, where my mother volunteers.)


A Post-Thanksgiving Catch-Up with an Old Friend

Happy Black Friday! I am so excited to have our dear friend Simon Wood here today! We miss his wit and wisdom. Without further ado…


So Simon, what have you been up to since you left Murderati?


Working harder than ever, I think.  I left Murderati to concentrate on writing and leave a little room for myself.  The free time I thought I’d have on my hands has gotten overwhelmed with projects long and short.  It seems if I give myself an inch, I’ll fill it with words.  A number of opportunities have come my way and I’m a girl who can’t say no… 


I’ve done very well over the last year with anthologies.  I’ve gotten into over half a dozen of those and I’ve been developing my pen name, Simon Janus.  I’ve had two releases, The Scrubs and Road Rash, released under that name.


I’m standing for election at the moment.  I’m running for president of the NorCal Chapter of the MWA.  I’m not sure how I got talked into that…


I’ve gotten into my cycling.  I’ve always been a pedaler.  I love the freedom of cycling.  It’s the only mode of transport that isn’t regulated.  I can ride as fast as I like and where I like.  I find it therapeutic.  It lets me relax and I get to think stories through on my rides.  Stephen King walks.  I cycle.  I’ve taken my cycling to another level recently by competing in local events. 

What kind of research have you been doing?


The kind of research that gets me into trouble.  At the moment, I’m making my Google search history even worse adding how someone can cheat a polygraph.  I’ve speaking to some cops recently about investigation techniques and the subject of polygraphing witnesses came up and it’s become an interesting plot point.  A friend of mine is a military interrogator and he’s been giving me some tips on interviewing tactics and strategies.  The next step is put practice into action and take a polygraph myself.   The idea spooks me a little.


I’m also looking to be hypnotized at the moment.  Another project I’m working on deals with the issue of memory loss.  I lost six months of memories after being hit by a car and the whole issue of recovered memories came up.  Do I actually remember or do I remember because people keep telling me what happened…


I had a nice time at on a weapons handling class.  It was supposed to be a sixty minute class that turned into 6hrs and we still weren’t finished.  I feel I’m getting my feet under me gun-wise but the engineer in me wants to be left alone in a fully stocked gun store with a range and a set of tools so I can experiment.  I’m very hands on when it comes to research.  I like to know what I’m talking about.  I think that kinda shows, doesn’t it.  :-/


What’s on your docket at the moment?


A couple of things.  With some of my titles going out of print lately, I’ve been resurrecting my backlist as eBooks.  The works still stands up and the reader demand is there, so I’ve brought back Dragged into Darkness and Working Stiffs as well as a number of my out of print articles from Writer’s Digest.  All of these are available from the Kindle Store and  I’m interested to see how my eBook experiment works out and this may be an interesting outlet for less marketable works such as novellas and novelettes.


I also have a story exclusive to audio called, Tenths of a Second.  It’s about a struggling young racecar driver who is given the chance to get an edge on the competition.  Because of the style of story and the audio format, I had to do a fun little rewrite.  The story can be checked out at

Have you gotten yourself into any trouble lately?


I was taking part in the Tour of Woodside cycle race this summer and I missed a turn marker and ended up going twenty miles off course before the mistake was realized.  I found my way back, but I was a little dehydrated by the end.   I hadn’t bargained for the extra distance liquids-wise.


I also lost Julie’s wedding ring.  This is the second one we lost, but the first I lost.  She found a temporary one, but I now have to find a new one.

Are you still writing copious amounts of helpful non-fiction?


I’m still doing bits for Writer’s Digest.  This year marked the release of my first nonfiction book—which was different.  I thought I could approach promotion for a nonfiction book the same way as I could with a novel.  I couldn’t.  Dealing with the media is a lot different and the readers themselves are a lot different.  I felt like I was learning all over again. 


I have a couple of nonfiction projects on the boil.  The closest to my heart is a memoir on being dyslexic.  It’s something that came up and it’s been interesting writing about it.  I hope I land a contract for it soon.

What’s next for you?


My next thriller, Terminated, comes out in paperback next June.  It focuses on workplace violence.  The story came about after I learned that some high profile companies are combating workplace violence with the use of private security firms.  I saw how that situation only works if everyone plays ball.  In Terminated, the system set in place falls down.  🙂


I’ve also completed a novel called Did Not Finish.  It’s a mystery set in the motor racing world.  I’m mining my own experiences in the sport.  I hope to do for motorsport what Dick Francis did for horse racing.  Did Not Finish is the first in a series of stories and is a fictionalized account of a driver that I knew who was murdered.


Visit Simon at Ask him about those earrings while you’re at it. Also, Simon’s previous Murderati posts can be found here.


Wine of the Week: In the spirit of Thanksgiving, let’s have some (really, truly, fantastic) 2006 Louis Latour Beaujolais-Villages Chameroy.  We also had a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau, the traditional wine for the third week of November. Read why here.


Dead Men Do Tell Tales


Please welcome Murderati Alum Simon Wood, whose new book, WE ALL FALL DOWN,
is in stores now!
Simon is guesting for me today as I rush about New York enjoying Thrillerfest! (Thanks, Simon!)

people, events and occurrences stick with me and no matter what I do, I
can’t forget about them. The death of three men in Bristol, England is
something I’ve never forgotten. They died a few months apart some time
in the late eighties. They weren’t murdered and it wasn’t accidental.
All three committed suicide.

What drew my attention to these
men was the circumstances of their deaths. All three died in the same
city, and they were all working on the same government project. The
first man walked into the sea. The second hanged himself from the
Clifton Suspension Bridge. The third tied a rope around a tree trunk
then around his neck, got into his car and drove away as fast as he
could until he ran out of rope. Needless to say, the deaths made the
news, albeit not on a national scale. The obvious questions were
raised. Why did these men kill themselves? And did it have anything to
do with their work? The questions went unanswered. The story sunk below
the surface as swiftly as the first victim.

Anytime anyone mentions Bristol or the Clifton Suspension Bridge, I think about these men’s deaths.


lot of my fiction is inspired by real life events, but I don’t like to
lift fact and fictionalize it. These men’s deaths intrigued me, but I
didn’t want to go trawling through their lives for entertainment
purposes. While I’m inspired by real life, I’m squeamish when it comes
to using real people’s lives in my books. Due to the sensitive nature
of the deaths, I was especially squeamish. Primarily, I want to
entertain, not offend. These men were somebody’s husband, son, brother
and friend. I don’t want their family and friends reading what is very
real to them in a fictionalized venue. I do this because if I were in
their shoes I wouldn’t want something very private to me made public
irrespective whether it is public domain or not.

when it came to writing, WE ALL FALL DOWN, I used the premise of a
string of suicides for the backbone of the story, but that was it. The
book is set in affluent Marin County north of San Francisco and the
work the victims were involved in is completely different. I didn’t
research these men’s deaths or their circumstances at the time.
Instead, I preoccupied myself with reasons for anyone to commit
suicide. I suppose this is a sensitive subject for me seeing as I’ve
known three people who have killed themselves. While I was searching
for reasons, a couple of unrelated news stories provided ample motive
for suicide—or in this case, staged suicides.

Seeing as dead
men can’t tell tales, I inserted a character with a similar background
to my own to unearth the mystery. I’m a mechanical engineer by trade
and through my middle to late twenties; I worked as an independent
contractor to a number of firms. Although I was one of the team, I was
an outsider. Office politics and rumor floated just above my
stratosphere. Every now and then, I’d catch a snippet that explained
the office dynamic. In WE ALL FALL DOWN, Hayden Duke is hired on short
contract to help a firm finish a hush-hush engineering project after
one of the employees commits suicide. He knows there’s something up at
the firm, especially when several other employees die. He takes an
active role after witnessing the death of his college friend and the
person responsible for getting him the job.

didn’t set out to answer the question why three men killed themselves
in Bristol. Instead, I’ve invented a story to satisfy my curiosity.
Whatever the reasons behind the original deaths, I hope these men are
truly at rest.

Yours respectfully,
Simon Wood


Please welcome back our dear friend Simon Wood!

This year’s Left Coast Crime convention, held in mile high Denver, allowed me to bring out my inner twelve year old boy.  It was the chance to take part in a surveillance and counter-surveillance exercise.  This was one of the extra-curricular activities held during the convention that I jumped on the second I saw it on offer.  Short story writer and ex-DEA agent, R.T. Lawton, put the exercise together.  A surveillance team would have to track a bad guy on the streets of Denver.  The object was for the bad guy to lose the team and for the team not to be spotted and not to lose their bad guy.  How super cool is that?  This was my chance to join the ranks of James Bond and Harry Palmer as the latest spy about town.

I signed up to be one of the hunted.  I put that down to my narcissistic side where I want to be followed by strangers all the time.  As the hunted, I was a ‘Rabbit’ and I was going to be hunted by a team of cougars.  I got quite excited as I’d heard that cougars were predatory older women.  Nice.  Sadly, cougars was just the term for the surveillance team that would be tailing me.  So I shelved the idea of being chased by women all over town for another day.

I wasn’t alone in my rabbit status.  Fellow bunny girls and guys were Marcus Sakey, Reed Farrell Coleman, Margaret Coel, Jason Starr, Donna Andrews, Michelle Gagnon and Twist Phelan.  The identities of the cougars were kept from us to keep things interesting.  For extra flavor, rabbits and cougars were briefed separately.  Us rabbits were taught some techniques for exposing cougars, such as doubling back, entering buildings and watching for who stops, etc.  And the cougars were taught their little tricks for avoiding detection.  I was given a map of downtown and a list of places and times to meet one or more of my fellow rabbits to make “exchanges.”  I was given my start place with a time to be there and told just to do my thing and avoid my cougars.

The game was set.

Hmm, little problem there.  I know the streets of Denver like the back of someone else’s hand.  Also, I get lost in unfamiliar places.  So to avoid wandering the streets hours after the game was over, stopping strangers and asking, “I’m a rabbit and I’m lost, how do I find my hotel?” I did a little homework.  I walked the route ahead of time.  I timed myself and looked for alleys and neat places to hide.  I should add that I was supposed to change into a disguise part way through the exercise and I needed a phone booth or somewhere to do that.  I also didn’t want to walk around with a map in my hand looking like a tourist dufus.  My dry run was a good move on my part as I noticed there were a lot of police and private security on the streets of Denver.  I drew more than a couple of glances from some rent-a-cops during my test.  The last thing I needed to do was get picked up and packed off to jail.  It gave me time to come up with a little plan.

The game kicked off in the late afternoon.  I walked the first leg of my route slowly, looking over my shoulder.  It was surprising to note how paranoid I became after the first thirty seconds.  I’m going from place to place on my route and all I can think about is that I’m being followed by people I don’t know.  They could be anyone.  I must treat everyone with suspicion because everyone is out to get me.  Will I ever be safe?  So I treated everyone I saw as a potential cougar.  It didn’t take long to spot cougars milling around Denver’s streets.  They were so focused on their rabbit and I was so focused on looking out for people following me, it became easy to spot them.   That was the shortcoming of playing a game with so many players in such a small geographical area, but I rolled with the punches.  I was here to play.

When I reached the stage of the game where I could break out my disguise, I wasn’t sure if I’d lost my cougars.  So many were milling about that I just had to hope my daring costume change would do the trick.  I was quite wily, in a way, with my disguise.  I have a padded denim jacket where the lining unzips and is a different jacket.  I also have a pair of glasses that makes me look like Tim Maleeny and a trusty baseball cap.  Because of the law enforcement presence I didn’t like the idea of ducking into a building to change, but I found a very conveniently located building to use as a shield.  I walked up to it on the wrong side of the street.  I waited for traffic to head towards me and I bolted across the road.  If anyone was following, they’d be taking a chance crossing the road after me.  The second I went behind the building, I peeled off my outer coat, pulled on my hat and glasses and emerged the other side of the building a new person.  I took a couple of odd streets to check for cougars and I seemed cougar free.

I went to my last meeting spot pretty sure I was in good shape.  I did check though.  I stopped in front of a shop window and pretended to looking at their wares while I was looking for cougars.  Sadly, I hadn’t looked at which store I stopped in front of and I was checking out the latest offerings from Bare Essentials.  It took me a moment to realize my error which was backed up by three cosmetologists eyeballing me and thinking, he’s not a winter complexion.  I decided that telling them I was trying to avoid cougars wouldn’t have helped. 
As I walked back to the convention hotel pretty sure I’d evaded my cougars, I thought about the little things that continued to give me away.  I was wearing a wedding ring and earrings.  I should have removed those when I changed.  Although I had changed, I couldn’t change my shoes.  I’d realized this when I was packing, so I packed some very ordinary sneakers.  Anything unusual would have stood out.

Sadly, I didn’t get to use my big weapon.  With all the security hanging around, I decided to use that disadvantage as an advantage.  If I hadn’t been able to give my cougars the slip I was going to go up to a rent-a-cop and use my accent.  I was going to say, “Hello, I’m a tourist in this fair nation and I hear stories about violence and muggers.  I’ve seen Law & Order, don’t you know, and some people are following me.  Those people over there to be exact.  Now it could be nothing or it could be something, but do you minding talking to them while I find my hotel.”  With this accent and innocent face, it would have worked like a dream.

Anyhoo, the teams returned to the hotel and we all swapped stories.  Everyone enjoyed playing spy for an hour.  The kid in all of us is hard to shift and when you’re as short as I am, it’s nearly impossible.  Personally, I had a hoot taking part.  I may have taken it a little too seriously, but it will work its way into my books and stories.  Check the bookshelves if you don’t believe me.

Yours in disguise,

Simon Wood

Simon Wood’s Web Hideout

Contemporary home office furniture.

A little while ago I mentioned splitting into two writers and developing a pseudonym.  Since I started writing, I’ve straddled two genres.  I’ve had one foot in the world of crime and the other in horror.  Instead of a cross-pollination of readers, I confused everyone.  Mystery readers thought I wrote horror and horror readers thought I wrote mystery—and editors thought I should stop bothering them. 

Ever since I mentioned splitting, I’ve been beavering away at trying to sell some of my darker stuff.  I have several pieces I’ve been pushing hard.  They would make for the perfect springboard to launch my other identity. Well, I made that breakthrough sale.  Next year will see the release of a very dark prison-set horror novella entitled, The Scrubs.  The story incorporates a fictionalization of London’s Wormwood Scrubs prison.  I’ve invented a dark mythology around the prison based on its name.  I’m very proud of the story.  Julie thinks it’s one of most visually impactful things I’ve ever written.  I certainly think it’s one of the most imaginative things I’ve done.  Bad Moon Books picked up the rights and will be releasing the book as a limited edition trade paperback and a hardback collector’s edition next year.  I’m quite excited.  I’ve always considered myself limited—but never in book form.  J

So, now I can officially split personalities.  I’m sticking a fork in the road that will go in two directions at once and readers out there can either follow one or both roads along with me.  I’m pleased with the decision.  I’m not keeping my two identities secret.  I’m not ashamed of my horror writing.  I just want to end the confusion.  Essentially, I’m branding my work.  If someone wants horror, go here and you’ll find it under this label.  If someone wants crime, go there and find it under that label.  I hope those that know me will want to seek out my two sides.  Those people who don’t know me won’t know the difference.

So, if I’m splitting, who am I going to be from now on?  Well, seeing as all but one of my published books have been in the mystery-thriller world, I’m sticking with Simon Wood for my criminal fiction and it’s my horror identity that will be new.  So please give a warm—yet dark—welcome a new voice in horror, Simon Janus. 

I stuck with Simon as a first name as I find it’s a bugger to sign a different name.  Janus is the perfect name to break out with as a pen name.  If you know your Roman mythology, Janus is the two-faced god.  That goes hand in hand with my life in two genres.  Also, Janus is the god of new beginnings.  The month of January is named after him. Oh, this is too perfect.  This really sums up what I’m doing here.  This is fate on a bagel.  Finally, Janus sits snuggly on the shelf just before King and Koontz.  Hmm…coincidence?  I’ll let you decide, but I will say this—sometimes I can be very premeditated.

So when I think dark, I’m Simon Janus.  I think it works.  What do you think?  It has a ring to it, doesn’t it?

Yours coming at you from two sides,
Simon Wood
PS: Next week, Chris Grabenstein will stand in for me and Bryon Quertermous the week after, while I break the back on a new project.  Be nice to them.  They’re doing me a favor.

And a Nation Weeps…

And by nation, I mean the Murderati nation as this is my final post on Murderati.  I will pause as you dash out for some Kleenex. 

Yes, it’s time for me to move on.  2007 has been an incredible year with book releases, book contracts and awards and 2008 promises even more.  2008 will see the release of three books.  I hope to secure as many new contracts and write as many new books too. 

But for all the success of 2007, there’s been a price and that’s been time.  I haven’t had any time for my family and friends, let alone for myself.  I’m a reliable person by trade, but not of late.  Everyone has gone on the backburner while I worked.  So the year hasn’t been all gravy.  There have been a few lumps that never got strained out.

I checked back on my resolutions I made at the beginning of the year.  I only achieved one and that was to cement a place in New York publishing (which God willing, I’ve done for the moment).  The others, not to work so hard, hang out with Julie, learn a new skill, I failed at miserably, not even coming close.  I need to do much better in ’08.

To succeed in ’08, I have to drop a few commitments to free up some time.  The two important ones are Sisters in Crime and Murderati.  I served as the NorCal chapter president of Sisters in Crime.  Sisters took up a lot more time than I expected.  The chapter faced a number of issues that no one expected and ate into my time.  I will remain a member of SinC, but I will be resigning from the board.  I’m also dropping Murderati.  It is only a weekly commitment, but it does eat into my time.  There are a bunch of essays I write that never make to the blog (and with good reason).

So what am I going to do with my additional time?  I do want to achieve my failed resolutions of stopping to enjoy the moment, hang with Julie and learn a new skill (I really want to learn how to fence and speak Spanish—I call it my Zorro phase).  In addition, I want to get back to my short story writing.  I wrote only two shorts this year.  I usually knock out twenty to thirty.  I want to experiment converting one of my short stories into a stage play.  There are a couple of novels that I call hobbies that I want to finish before they become quests.  I need to focus on promoting my books.  I just didn’t do either book justice this year as I ran from one commitment to another.  Again, I don’t know if I’ll achieve all this, but I want to give myself the freedom to do it.

If you’d still like to hear from me, my monthly e-newsletter goes into its 6th year and you’re welcome to join.  It consists of observational essays that poke fun at the world and me.  Just click the link to sign up.

I know I’m leaving a big hole and it’s going to moderately tough act to follow for whoever replaces me, but I’m sure whoever it is, they’ll do a bang up job.

So cheerio and good luck.

Yours at an end of an era,
Simon Wood

Something I Don’t Want For Christmas

Christmas is just around the corner and it’s a time for giving, but there are some things I don’t want—bad reviews to be exact.  I was thinking about reviews the other day.  Well, not exactly thinking, more like obsessing.  Despite my rough, gritty exterior that you’ve come to know and mildly like, I’m quite squidgy inside, so the idea of getting a bad review is likely to make me cry or hide under the duvet until someone compliments me.  So I started to think about what would be a nightmare review.  Here’s what I hope never to see written about my books this Christmas or at any time:

“A great bathroom read—very absorbent.”

“It’s one hell of doorstop.”

“Out of all the books I’ve read this year, this was one.”

“Once read, never remembered.”

“This book made me switch on the TV.”

“It was grate!”

“This book is very put-downable—a policy that should be applied to the author.”

“An author to track down—and do bad things to.”

“It made me hate my ability to read.”

“This was a real page burner.”

So those are some of my nightmare reviews.  What are yours or what ones do you wish you could have written for other people’s books?  (No names or titles, please).

Yours hoping for everything I deserve this Christmas,
Simon Wood

Lying to be honest

I’m a pretty good liar, especially on the spot.  Someone can toss out a subject and I can pretty much tell them some convincing facts about history, science or the arts—none of it true.  Hmm, I wonder if I’m related to Dan Brown to me. 

This is, of course, great when it comes to telling stories.  I’m not lying.  I’m just flexing my fiction muscles. 

Where things go a little awry is when it comes to telling the truth.  Lies need polish and racing stripes.  The truth doesn’t.  It’s naturally shiny.  But I struggle when faced with telling the truth.  It looks so vulnerable and naked when I tell it and in most cases no one believes me when I do tell the truth.  The other week someone told me they didn’t believe my pieces about having to crash land a plane and falling off a mountain were true.  They bloody were and I have evidence to back it up.

A few months ago I had a run in with Julie over my truthfulness.  I’ve pulled the wool over Julie’s eyes so many times that she doesn’t have a fear of blindfolds.  She’s used to my fibbery.  This time, I ran into a little problem. 

Now that I work from home, I’m a little house husband and I do the laundry and things.  Laundry is a task I don’t mind.  I find it quite therapeutic when I’m working a story idea out in my head.  So, on this particular day, Julie came home to nice, neat piles o’ laundry.  Please place Simon in the good books section of Julie’s world.  I was typing away and Julie came in.  I expected to get my good boy pat on the head.  Instead, a pair of scarlet ladies underwear hit me in the back of the head.

“Whose are they?” she demanded.

I peeled the knicker cap off my head, examined them and said, “Yours?”

“No, they’re not mine.”

Well, they weren’t mine.  They were these tiny little Victoria’s Secret things.  Not my style for sure.  To settle things down, I said the one thing I thought would calm her.  “I don’t know whose they are, but you have them.  Finders keepers and all that.”

“I don’t want somebody else’s underwear.”

I went to say they were clean, but didn’t think this would resolve the issue.  So I shrugged.

“I want to know whose these belong to,” she demanded.

This is where I panicked.  The truth was, I didn’t know who the knickers belonged to and me proclaiming my innocence didn’t seem to be working.  I should have lied at this point and told her I was holding them for a friend or something, but I scrabbled for an explanation and came up with, “Maybe they’re your mum’s.  She house-sat for us the other week.”

“My mom doesn’t wear these.  Have you had someone here?”

“No,” I said, but it sounded so weak.

“Tell me the truth.”

“I am.”

“Then how did these things get in our laundry?”

“I don’t know.  It could be a trick.  Maybe someone pulled a prank on me.”  I said this as if it was likely that one of my chums would get back at me by dropping the naughty undies in my gym bag.  I tend pull pranks on others.  Payback is a female dog.

“Then I suggest you find out.  That’s your task.  Find out who owns these things.”

“I’ll get on it straight away, my petal,” I said, but Julie had left the room.

I’d told her the unadulterated truth (ew, bad choice of word there) and it didn’t sound very convincing.  I didn’t know how to be more convincing.  If I had been lying, I would have done a great job of having a story lined up with backup lies on hand.  I’m a totally interactive liar.  So very now.  But my truthiness (thanks, Stephen Colbert) sounded so lame it needed shooting.

Like a half-lit firecracker, I gave Julie time to cool off.  I snuggled up to her on the sofa and asked, “You do believe me, don’t you?”  She told me that she did but in one of those clipped tones that said otherwise.  I gave her another ten minutes and asked her again and got the same tight answer.  For the next hour, I repeated my question every ten minutes or so.

“If you keep asking, I’m going to start doubting you.”

I stayed quiet after that.

I asked my lady chums if they’d played a cruel joke on me and all replied that they hadn’t.  This news didn’t please Julie.  She was leaving on a business trip that weekend and she left me with instructions to get to the bottom this issue.  My Sherlockian skills narrowed it down to Julie’s mom.  Julie didn’t want to ask her mom for obvious reasons.  If they weren’t her mom’s, then her mom would think of me as a cheater.  A thorny issue.  Anyway, Julie left for trip. 

About an hour later, I received a call from Julie.  “I talked to my mom.  They’re hers.”

Not one to gloat, I told Julie she could apologize any time she felt like it.  Oddly, she hung up on me.

When she returned from her trip, I chatted to her about our knicker mystery.  I reminded her that I’d been right from the beginning.  I said I was little worried that she thought I might be a cheater. 

Julie said, “I had total faith in you and I only threw the underwear at you for a joke, but when I asked for an answer, you looked completely guilty.  You were telling me you didn’t do it, but all I saw was guilt.”

And there lies the problem.  My honest face is real shaky.  I know why.  I didn’t have a good story to back up the truth.  My “Dunno” defense felt as weak as it sounded, but the issue at hand wasn’t something I wanted to lie about.  In retrospect, I should have embellished in some way.  I would have come over more convincing. 

I wish I could say my truthfulness hasn’t gotten me into trouble.  Oddly, my lying never has.  I’m not sure what that says about me, but I’m guessing it’s not good. 

You believe me, right?

Yours truly,
Simon Wood
PS: CrimeSpree Magazine interviewed me in their latest issue and you can read it here.

Out Of The Blue

I was reading back over some old posts and I came across a remark made by Murderati’s own Alex S.  She asked me why I felt it necessary to put my characters through hell.  I put it down to my talent for disaster.  I am usually the catalyst for some small calamity to come my way.  Sometimes, it’s my own damn fault, but sometimes, I’m in the wrong place at the wrong time.  This trait reminded me of something that happened a fair few years ago.  A small incident led to something that had the potential for something much larger.

I used to race cars in England in the early 90’s.  I ran a pretty shoestring outfit and was forever wheeling and dealing to stay to stay in business.  Not all my sponsors paid me.  Some provided valuable resources I couldn’t afford.  One such resource was a truck to transport my car.  A company provided me with free use of a shiny new Ford Transit van.  Someone else lent me a trailer.  I used to drive to Staines to pick up the trailer in the Transit before each race.  Truck and trailer made me a pretty sizable obstacle and naturally people would be eager to get around me.  One lady pushed her luck a little hard at a roundabout.  She tried to sneak across me as I attempted to get off the roundabout.  We ground to a halt on the roundabout just shy of hitting each other.  The problem was we’d blocked all traffic on the roundabout.  The lady and I traded insults as it took us several minutes of maneuvering to get off the roundabout.  I went on my merry way.  The lady didn’t.  She drove up on my tail flashing her lights and honking her horn.  I was pissed off too, but I had the race on my mind and I like to be a little Zen in the run up to the race, so I ignored her.  The lady buzzing around my bumper lost interest and went on her not so merry way.

I thought that was that until after the race a couple of days later when my sponsor told them the police had contacted them about a road accident.  Being my supportive sponsor, they immediately handed over my details to the police. 

The police officer assigned the case came for me a few times, but I was always away at a track when he called.  This wouldn’t have looked so bad if the officer made an appointment but he chose to arrive unannounced.  Eventually he caught up with me as I was unloading my racecar into my storage unit.  He asked for a word.  The word I gave him was yes.

He was a nice guy and I liked him.  He seemed to be a down to earth guy and very un-cop like with his attitudes.  He helped me lock up and we chatted about racing on the way back to my house.  In the living room, he asked if I knew about an incident.  I said I did and told him what happened.  He told me a different account.  I’d hit the woman on the roundabout, totaling her car and driving off.

“I beg your pardon,” I said and went to object, but he cut me off.  He cautioned me and read through a little of charges that included but weren’t limited to fleeing the scene of an accident, reckless driving, and reckless endangerment.  I was looking at a driving ban at the minimum.  This was a major problem.  A ban on the streets is a ban on the track.

I tried to protest.  If I’d hit the car, there’d be damage on the Transit and the trailer.  There wasn’t any.  If I had any doubts to the damages to the woman’s car, I caught sight of a Polaroid pinned to his file.  The car was caved in on one side.  The cop cut my protests short.  He needed my statement and I gave one.  It was obvious what was going on here.  This chick crashed her car on the way home, looked to someone to blame and chose me.

I talked and the policemen wrote.  He handed me the statement to sign.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t looking at a statement, but a confession.  Where I said I hadn’t done something, he wrote that I knowingly did, not just once, but all the way through the account.  I said we had a problem and policeman smiled and said, “Do we?”

“Yes, this says I did it.”

“Must have been a slip of the pen,” he said.

Somewhere in the region of 25 slips in fact.

I don’t know if he knew I have difficulty reading or not.   He had met my mum a couple of times when he came looking for me and she might have said something about it.  If not, I’m not sure how he thought he was going to sail this one by me.  My mum was present and I had her read the statement aloud.  I had to cross out and initial “errors” throughout the document.  The policeman made no apology and left.

I didn’t agitate the situation by reporting the cop.  It was pretty obvious what he’d tried to do.  But I saw no point in raising the ire of a police department.  I already had this woman in the other car trying to screw me over.  I was pissed off, but I let it go.  If they got even trickier, I’d speak up.

Luckily, they didn’t.  The charges were dropped two months later.  It was hard not to.  For all the collateral damage done to the woman’s car, there wasn’t a scratch on the van and trailer.

Nevertheless, the situation bugged me.  It could have all ended differently—and badly for me.  I think I was most pissed off by the cop.  I’d totally misread him.  The upshot is that it’s a nice demonstration of why I put my characters through hell.  It might be fiction, but it has its origins planted in reality.

Safely yours,
Simon Wood