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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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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

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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.

 

 

 

 

Wednesday
Jun072017

The Art of Finishing

 

Seems like the launch of Fall in One Day was already a while ago... even though it wasn't. And there's lot more stuff happening, author visits to Chapters/Indigo, maybe some other local reads, and a bit of hitting the road. (More info on that to come)
But of course, writers gotta write. So what's happening next?... you might ask - hell, I ask myself the same thing!

I've been working on a few different projects, but I will soon be focusing on just one. While I like the idea of a lot of irons in the fire, or ducks in the pond, or doughnuts in the fryer (hmm, I like that one), if I hope to finish something, then I need to eventually focus on one thing.

I've read how John Updike, who was very prolific, had three different desks, each with a unique purpose. One was for writing short stories, one for novels, and one for essays and journalism. I guess he would switch his working area depending on the project – not sure if all three desks were in one room, or even if the story is mythical, but I get it. Here is my theory: The different set-ups helped him finish shit.

If there is one thing that I think separates serious writers from those who simply like the idea of writing (you can call them amateurs, but I think they are more wannabees) and here it is: writers finish shit.
And when you're talking a novel, that is a marathon that is not to be taken lightly. Sure, there is Nanowrimo - where you bang keys for the solid month of November – but I can't say that you have a finished novel at the end of it. Or maybe you do. Whatever floats your boat. The whole point here is in the finishing. Who I am to dis those that commit to a solid butt-in-chair attitude for thirty days?

I've had people tell me, after they find out I have written novels, that they have whole novels in their head, they just have to write them down. Yeah, good luck with that. Don't get me wrong, not trying to get all snarky about it. It's just that statements like that can undermine the difficult challenge of writing 80,000 words into some sort of cohesive narrative.

But not just novels, short stories are their own challenge. One of my writing heroes, George Saunders talks about working on stories for years. But the thing he did, he didn't just work on them, he finished them.

So dear woo-reader, my encouragement to you, if you are beginning to write, is to finish something... anything. And then finish another thing. And so on. It's the best thing you can do.

I didn't actually start this post to talk about that - but it is simply a reminder to myself that I need to shift gears, dig in, put those doughnuts in the fryer (obviously a theme), and get at it.

Next up will most likely one of three things:
Manistique is the follow up to Surf City Acid Drop. Our hero, but still not a detective, Luke Fischer finds himself in Upper Michigan trying to find the trail of a young woman that he watched die in a backroom poker game in Santa Fe.

Bent Highway Part Two. If you read the crazy adventure of M, you know a couple of things - time got weird - and the novella just kinda stopped. I've always meant to continue and finish this story... and I think I am ready to now. A writer friend recently read Part One and really liked it. This reminded me that I liked it too.

UnNamed New novel. This one is in research stage, but I am really loving the premise... which, I can't tell you, because I ascribe deeply to the writing that first draft with the door closed (From Stephen King's On Writing). Just to say, it's going to be cool, and there may be, just may be, some Samurai involved.

Okay - go finish something now. That's what I'm trying to do.

P.S. - A bit of trivia to do with my novel Fall in One Day. Some of my friends know that I am huge fan of the musician Beck - but the protagonist of that novel (Joe Beck) is not named after him. Rather, he is named after the character of Henry Bech... written by John Updike.