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  • Ethical Aspects of Animal Husbandry
    Ethical Aspects of Animal Husbandry
    by Craig Terlson

    A collection of short stories where the humour runs dark and the slipstream bubbles up.

     

    ...imagine if Raymond Carver called up George Saunders and Joe Lansdale, and they all went drinking with Neil Gaiman.

  • Correction Line
    Correction Line
    by Craig Terlson

    “… it's clear that Terlson is way ahead of the curve in terms of crafting an engaging premise that reaches for elevated territory and reinvents enduring archetypes of action and suspense.”  J. Schoenfelder


    "Sometimes brutal, often demanding and always complex, this novel will repay the reader who likes their assumptions challenged and is happy to walk away from a book with minor questions unanswered but the big ones definitely dealt with! It’s likely to satisfy those who enjoy Hammet and/or Philip K Dick and who like their fiction very noir indeed."   Kay Sexton

     

    "I love a novel that you can't put down, and this is one of them."  L. Cihlar

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Sunday
Jul092017

Woo-back the Sask edition

On the cusp of leaving for a mini-tour to the motherland (Saskatchewan), I thought I'd post a woo-back with a touch of my home province.

For sure it shows up in my fiction - though never named in Fall in One Day, and I've created some new towns and cities, it most definitely is a Saskatchewan landscape. Without thinking it is where I go when I start to write a story. I still like to write about other places, Mexico, Toronto, and currently, Upper Michigan. But all of those require a bit more research and work. But Sask., well, I just need to start typing and I am there.

10 Years ago in the woo-back - Grey Cup week no less - and me thinking Rider thoughts. Something else that happens when you grow up there.
Have a read, and if you're in Weyburn or Regina next week, stop by and say hi.
I'm at the Weyburn Public Library, Tues. July 11, 7:00

And then at Words in the Park - in Victoria Park, Regina - Noon

And then Chapters bookstore - southern Regina - from 4:00 - 7:00 PM.

### 

Green Fiction

Reed.George2.jpgNo, it is not a misspelling, and I am not talking about Graham Greene again. This is a blog all
about fiction and writing, but I need to make a side step into the world of sports just for amoment.

When I was a kid somebody, maybe my dad, gave me a shirt with the number 34 on the back and a very well known football logo on the front. Number 34 was George Reed, the logo was the Saskatchewan Roughriders. So I was born into this heritage, and those who follow Canadian football know there is nothing like a Rider fan. You find them everywhere, in every city across Canada and even in other countries. There is a joke about landing on another planet and listing the people you would find there - I think it goes like: a lawyer, a reverend, etc., and a Rider fan.

I used to play a bit of football, and watch a lot of it. I don't watch it, or really any sports on TV anymore. I still go to baseball games for the meditative experience, but I don't follow the big leagues. Though, there is a time when my heritage burbles up (if heritages could do that), and it doesn't happen often, barely once a generation. It is when the Riders make it to the big game, the Grey Cup - I don't like calling it Canada's Superbowl, because there is something so uniquely Canadian about it that is defies parallels. There are those people who have never watched a game all year become football fans during Grey Cup week. Although, this does depend on who is playing. And if you believe the media, this year, the year Saskatchewan finally made it to the final, it seems like every man, woman, child and dog has suddenly become a football fan. The ultimate underdogs with the best fans in sport have made it to the show, and it's better than the best fiction.

Me, I'll be thinking of that shirt from my childhood and finding me a case of Saskatchewan Pilsner. That's the one with the green label.

Go Riders.

Friday
Jun302017

Woo-back - the Canuck Edition


Me and my closest 30 million friends will be celebrating our home and native land's 150th this year. Very very proud and happy to be a Canadian - and I still might get a bit misty when singing the anthem at a ball game.

I thought I'd use the woo-back machine to search for mentions of Canada over the last 10 years, and of course I came up with a review of a Richard Ford book (an American! Sheesh).

Still, I thought Canada, the novel, was a wonderful read and Ford continues to inspire me in all his writings. His presence in the latest New Yorker, even though it was just an essay, made me buy the issue.

Here is what I thought of Canada, back in 2012:

 

Canada (Richard Ford) review

Canada

Canada by Richard Ford
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you are looking for a fast paced narrative, full of suspense and robbers on the run (r.o.r. - okay, just made that up), then look elsewhere.
But if you know Ford's elegant, stripped down prose and amazing ability to capture the intricacies of human beings better than any other writer alive (stolen quote form Globe and Mail), and you have the time to immerse yourself in a slow exploration... then this book needs 6 stars, or maybe more.

I know it won't be for everyone - and especially the dismaying amount of readers that want a narrative to drive forward - but this book will ache in my chest long after I have read it. I don't need to give away much in the plot, really there isn't much plot. In 1960, Dell Parson's parents rob a bank, he and his twin sister are set adrift. Berner, his sister, runs to California, Dell is spirited away, pre-911, to cross the border into Canada, and "hide-out" in southwestern Saskatchewan. (Right around where I was born actually). It really isn't a hiding out, but a crossing of a physical border, that parallels the metaphorical border Dell is crossing in his life. 

Sure it is a coming of age of sorts - for me it resonates best with Ford's short stories (Rock Springs) and the novella Wildlife, which also has a young person at its centre, and a shares the setting of Great Falls, Montana. It has less in common with the Bascombe books (Independence Day etc., which I have not liked as much.)
But it is much more than a sixteen year old crossing into adulthood. A melancholy pervades the book, at times it's almost too sad to read, as in when the siblings visit their parents in jail. Ford gets inside people, and even if you can't imagine what Dell's life would be like (ie: have never had a parent commit a criminal act and go to jail), you will recognize yourself in there, you will recognize humanity in there.

Dell tells this story as a 66-year old man (though, this only becomes evident in scant ways, and the voice is a teenager's, one wise beyond his years). And I can't help but think Ford is reflecting on his life through this book - he is returning to a setting from early in his career, and he is thinking about the things that led up to his life now (I think he is almost 70). As I've said, this is a sad and quiet book - but in the best sort of Wim Wenders way. I do think it will make the Pulitzer and National Book lists.

If I have one criticism of the book, it is the use of the cliffhanger type endings in some of the chapters. As in, "and he knew he would never see again", or "later when he found the man dead in the room" (these are paraphrase samples, trying not to spoil anything - but hell, right from the beginning line you know there is a robbery and a murder). I wonder if editors told Ford, "You know it's beautiful and all that, but can you crank up the tension, just a bit?" These bits seem out of place. And I want to say, shut up unnamed editor, I am just fine with the pace. I have seen Ford in interviews, including the Colbert Report (!), himself reminding the interviewer that the book is also about robbery and murders, as if to say, "hey, it's not like that literary stuff that people don't read anymore." Again, I say, Richard, shhh. It's fine. It's more than fine.

I know this is a book I will read again. The controlled and elegant prose needs to be studied. The mood is not something I look forward to, but the feelings, and even the truth, that it evokes create something that I find in classic novels: at the end, I am changed. 

At this point in my life (49), I think a lot of my Saskatchewan upbringing. Incidentally, my father was a goose hunter, also born right around the setting of the novel, and these sections of the book are crystalline in their imagery. And I think of borders, what it means to cross over them, and to never return.
My favorite quote in the book is the narrator quoting Ruskin,
"Composition is the arrangement of unequal things."

This is what Ford does. He takes these unequal things in our lives, and he puts them into stories that tell us who we are.

Friday
Jun232017

Lansdale in the woo back!

Just remembered it's Friday. I know, I know, how weird is that?

In this week's 10 years ago wooback machine, I went back and looked at my mentions of Mr. Joe R. Lansdale. If you've been reading the blog for the last 10 years, you know he comes up... um... often. (Maybe second only to George Saunders).

So 10 years ago, I was waxing on about The Bottoms. It's still my fave book of his, but he has written a boatload of good ones - notably the entire Hap and Leonard series. Not sure when I started reading him, but here is an earlier post, with an awesome quote at the end:

 

 

The yarn spinner

gnat.gif
This won't be the last time I mention Joe R. Lansdale at woofreakinhoo - it is hard to know where to even begin with this guy. If you have heard of him, it might be because of the movie Bubba Ho-Tep. I saw that before I read any of his fiction and thought it was one of the most wildly inventive plots I'd seen in, well, forever.

I didn't know at the time that his books were even better. I have a stockpile of them, haven't even read them all yet - I don't want to. I want to savour each one, so I spread them out, a few months apart.

His humour, his wild plots, his amazing characters, they all draw me in. A friend told me my work has some similarities to Landsdale, sometimes I can see that. I say "sometimes" because I don't quite see my work in the same genre. Although, I should add, it is hard to put Lansdale in a genre. I could devote a lot of posts to this guy, and I might.

But for now, I just want to mention what I think may be his finest book, The Bottoms. It is more mainstream than his other books (based on the ones that I have read). A lot of critics have compared it to Harper Lee's most famous, and only, book. But I don't think you can quite saddle it next to To Kill a Mockingbird. Funnier yet, is the comparison to Faulkner. I more respect Faulkner than love him (except for, "As I Lay Dying, which is incredible). For one thing, I think I'd rather sit by a fire and hear Lansdale tell stories than Faulkner.

He is a yarn spinner - and more. The humour that bubbles out of his books and the descriptive language seems natural, never forced. And the kicker for me is that there is something deeper at work. Not always. I thought his book Freezer Burn failed in that area. But "The Bottoms" is a whole 'nother thing. And I can't put the damn thing down.

When I read his stuff, I am always trying to remember my favorite descriptions, just so I can tell someone else about it. Like when he comments on the collective intellect of the Nation family in The Bottoms:

"... if you took the Nation family's brains and wadded them up together and stuck them up a gnat's butt and shook the gnat, it'd sound like a ball bearing in a boxcar."

How fine is that?

Home of Mr. Lansdale

Monday
Jun192017

9 Things I Learned at a Book Signing


I had my first book signing appearance at a Chapters Indigo store this weekend. I really had no idea what to expect, even though I'd seen other authors at tables in book stores. Years ago, before she won the Pulitzer, I literally ran into Carol Shields who had a table set up in a tiny bookstore in between the stacks. I turned the corner, and there she was with a small stack of books and a timid smile. It was very funny interaction when I look back on it. I think I said something like, "So, you wrote a book then?"

This gives me some solace when I think of the conversations I had this weekend. Point 1. could have been "no one knows what to say to writers. 

But here is my list of things I learned - maybe it will help you if you find yourself in a similar situation:

1. Writers are Scary

I might have guessed this one, knowing that whenever someone sets up a table in a store, it is to sell you stuff. Usually stuff you don't want - like another high-interest credit card. For this reason, customers are conditioned to not make eye contact with anyone sitting, or even near, that table. they set me up near the front door - a great location in a really beautifully laid out store. As people went by, eye contact was usually avoided, but the odd brave one looked my way.

There were quite a number of kids in the store that day - a Captain Underpants event was going on, so kids (and staff) were wearing some fun looking capes. TBH, I kinda wanted one. The kids made eye contact with me, because they didn't know the rules about not looking at the person at the table.

Not sure how to make myself less scary - on retrospect, maybe the Jason hockey mask was a bad idea.

Note to bookstore customers: Most writers do not bite. Approach with caution, but come and say hi. 


2. Identify thyself 

For serious the most asked questions of the day:

"You're a writer?"

"Oh, did you write this book?"

"Are you an author? Of this book?"

This was more funny than annoying. I joked with the staff (who were fantastic), that there should have been a giant red arrow pointing to me. Live actual writer - in his natural habitat. Friendly. Literary even. 

On the habitat thing, I think people actually thought it was kinda odd that a writer would be in a bookstore. Like they should be home, in their den, with a smoking jacket. Or at least in some grotto somewhere.

 

3. Kids are great

Later in the afternoon my eldest daughter showed up with my two grandkids (who are, yes, amazing). I found out immediately that having a cute kid on your knee makes you about 1000x more approachable. I sold more books in the 30 minutes they were in the store than any other time. 

My granddaughter (4 years old), told me this sage advice:

"Big G (my name), when someone comes to talk to you, tell them that you wrote this book. And then tell them it's very good. OK?"

Yes. And check. Out of the mouth of babes.

 

4. People are super-interesting

When people did screw up their courage, I got into some completely fascinating conversations. One woman heard me talking to someone and was so interested in our conversation, that she googled the book, and then decided to come over and buy one (which she did). Often I found if one person, even one of the store staff, was talking to me, others felt safer to come and approach. I am not sure how I can change this in my next appearance - perhaps, have my granddaughter join me. Or hire some people to just stand by me and chat. So many times when people began to talk with me, I sold a book. One, sounding very surprised, said, "Huh. That actually does sound like a book I'd like to read." (And then bought a book.)

 

4a. (Partial) List of stuff I had conversations about with customers:

Nostradamus

Bagadavida

Hare Krishna in Regina

Trump

Watergate

LSD

Scandinavian surnames

Hockey in Weyburn

Carpentry

Mental Institutions

How Buddhists took everything they knew from the Hindu

Photography and shooting with film, not digital

House painting

Captain Underpants

 

5. Social media works

I wasn't sure if I should be posting, or even be on my phone during the signing. Mostly, I kept it in pocket. Except there was the person that saw a post on instagram that I had put up about an hour previous, who decided to come down to the store. And then bought a book.

 

6. Friends are great

Again, I wasn't sure if I wanted my friends down there at the store. So many have supported me, and came to the launch, that I didn't expect them to come by to this appearance. But when they did stop by, one wanted me to sign his book, it was so awesome to see people that I knew. And them talking to me, once again, made me more approachable (see all my previous points).


7. Next time bring candy

I was given this advice but didn't take it, and I should have. My daughter said to me when she was there, you should have a bowl of something that invites people to come over and talk to you. If the appearance thing is all about approachability (which I learned it is), then this would have gone a long way.

Also on that note, the local rep for the Writers Union of Canada paid me a visit (and was the one that suggested the candy... sorry, should have listened). It was a very nice gesture that she came.

 

8. Coffee always helps

After I was given my free Starbucks drink (Triple-Tall Americano please), I talked just a bit faster, and more animated. I'm kind of animated to begin with, so I had to be careful - but if you're kind of a slower, quiet person, then caffeine-up and dive in. Not really kidding about this one :)

 

9. It's not about the sales

Sure, I wanted to sell some books and find some new readers, and I did. But really it was more about the ongoing effort to get people taking note of the book, maybe picking it up at a library, or telling a friend about it. As well, it's building a relationship with the booksellers (just like my publicist told me) (who is also amazing) - and the staff and manager of this store were quite wonderful.

 

 

So that's about it. I have a few more of these planned this summer. I'll report back any new finding. Thanks for reading.

 

Friday
Jun162017

The woo-back is back. 10 Years MAN!

With all the hubbub lately, book launches and such, I forgot about cranking the wooback machine up to explore the last 10 years of this blog. 10 YEARS MAN  - speak in the tone of Jeremy Piven in Gross Pointe Blank... like this:

 

 

 

 

Okay, that was fun.

Now where was I?

Oh yeah, the wooback. It's interesting to find posts from the past about the novel, Fall In One Day, the one that is in bookstores near you right now! Or I hope it is. Tomorrow I start my Chapters/Indigo visits. Maybe I'll see you there.

Back in 2011, I was digging into the novel, and nearing the end of a first draft. And even at that point I was wondering: is this a coming of age book? Is is about LSD? Watergate?

Yes... all those things. Have a read - from May, 2011.

 

Writing and writing and writing

 

Haven't had much to say here at woofreakinhoo about my new novel. That is the thing about working on a project with a long timeline - you just kind of bury your head into the work, and a year later you come up for air. With various stops and starts to focus on other work, I think I have been working on this new one for about a year. Although, the idea for it, and the first few chapters actually began in the fall of 2009.

Hard to believe that much time has went past.

The last six months I have been following a much more intense daily writing schedule. So I am excited to report that I am on the verge of finishing the first draft. For those who don't work on novels, that might not seem a big deal - but for those that do, I think you understand the massive undertakings of writing a long narrative.

I used to have a had time telling people what my first novel was about (Correction Line). This one might be easier... maybe. For now I will just say it is about a boy in 1973 growing up against the backdrop of the Watergate hearings. Oh, and the early history of LSD.

Now if you read that and went - oh, another coming of age story (yawn) - hopefully you leaned in a bit when I mentioned Watergate and LSD. If anything, it has been a ton of fun to write. And I would add, it is definitely not your usual coming of age tale.

Stay tuned.