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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
Apr162017

At the sound of the tone... resonate

Resonance. That sound that still exists in your brain after a really long, or powerful note, at the end of a classical piece of music, or hell, classic rock for that matter (think: A Day in the Life by the Beatles)... that's what I'm talking about. Us old TV watchers know it as retina burn, when the Zenith got flicked off but images still remained like ghosts on the screen. Or we imagined they remained. I say old TV watchers, because I'm not sure it works that way anymore. Maybe retina burn of the brain after you just binge watch 6 seasons of Breaking Bad and you can't stop thinking about Meth (and the consequences of evil).

But before I slip into digression (too late), right at the start of a post, let me tell you how this relates to writing. Quite awhile back when I was working on a lot of short fiction, I struggled with the endings of stories. I was talking a course at the time through Gotham Writers Workshop (yes, I am the Batman), and an instructor told me that an ending should both be a door and a window.

The door was some sort of closure. I say "some sort" because this does not mean a didactic statement that wraps everything and tells you the meaning of what you just read. See: Aesop's Fables. No, a door answers the question the story has posed... it answers it just enough.

The window is about seeing forward into the part of the story that is not told. It can be a "what happened next" type feeling – wasn't there some kid's magazine that had those sort of pictures? My retina burned brain has somewhat of a memory of these pictures. But it is more than guessing what happens next, it is all the possibles of what could happen next, and how these characters, and even the story itself, continues on in some pan-dimensional fiction universe. Ok, I made that up. What I'm talking about is resonance. Yes, trippy.

What do you remember after you've read a story, or a novel?

There are certain stories that will always stay with me – I don't even have to look them up on the inter-web. Raymond Carver's Neighbors has a couple, locked out of their neighbor's apartment, whose place they were supposed to be taking care of (and end up taking advantage of)... when the door clicks, locking, and they slide down against the door, unable to stop, or turn back what just happened. Or in Carver's Fat, the waitress that comes home and knows her life is about to change. Or one last Carver, Cathedral, where the blind man helps his host draw a Cathedral while holding his hand, and the man says, "Wow. That's really something."

Now, I could pick up my various Carver collections and reread those stories to see how my memory is - but I don't want to (but you, yes, you should go read those stories). What I want to think about is why those moments have stuck with me so long. The final chapters of Moby Dick do the same for me – the Pequod sinking and swirling into the sea, and then Queequeg's coffin shooting out of the water – almost like it was spit out. And then our hero, Ishmael, clinging to it.

It's been years since I read Moby Dick, but I'll never forget that image.

I recently finished George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo – so maybe it is too soon to think about resonance in that novel, but I already know this book will stay with me a long time (as do many of his stories). The images of ghosts going into Lincoln's body to try and get him to revisit his dead son, and more importantly, bring a closure to death, is something I can barely imagine what it looks like. Yet, I can hold the resonance of that event, and many others from the narrative.

Now, you can't force resonance into your writing – Lord knows I've tried. Forcing resonance into a narrative is like you're shouting at your reader Owen Meany style: HEY, THIS NEXT PART YOU'RE GOING TO READ IS SUPER IMPORTANT. YOU ARE GOING WANT TO REMEMBER. MAYBE GET AN UNDERLINER...

It's more about being faithful to the story you are writing. And to know that resonance doesn't always happen either... so don't go searching for it. But when it does... wow.

I'm a film guy too, so I think about this concept in that medium. My son has a podcast called, Does That Hold Up? Where he and a guest view movies that were important to them in their childhood, and see if they still hold up. In a lot of the episodes I've listened to, the movies do... which surprised me. I've went back and re-watched things from my childhood and teenage years, and nostalgia aside, sometimes they just suck, and suck bad. Though, I could watch movies like the Good the Bad and the Ugly, All the President's Men, or Altman's, The Long Goodbye, several hundred more times... because, man do they hold up.

So think of a movie or a book that had a lot of resonance for you. Maybe it was just the ending, or even a scene (De Niro and Walken in the Deerhunter anybody?) One of my favourites to think about is the ending of Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation. Truthfully, this movie hit me at a time (turning 40), where it just nailed me. I know others gave it a a general "3 mehs". But when Bill Murray whispers into Scarlett's ear, and we never hear or know what is said... even when I watched it the first time, I knew that I would never forget it. Resonance in spades.

We could be here all night, so one more. The ending of No Country for Old Men. I knew it was coming, having read the book, but wondered if the Coen Brother's screenplay would hold to it. And they did. Some film watchers were confused. I was delighted, and immersed in Tommy Lee Jones retelling of his dream to his wife. Credit to Cormac for writing it, the Coens for staying true to it, and for TL Jones for nailing it.

I won't say that I had to fight for the ending of my new novel, Fall in One Day - but I did have to discuss with my editor why I wanted it to end that way. There is definitely a feeling of resonance in the final scene. I will be curious to see if readers share that opinion.

In closing... Ladies and gentlemen, here are the Beatles...
(skip ahead to the last note - or just watch the whole amazing thing).

 

 

Tuesday
Apr112017

Guest blogging for BMP

This week I did a guest appearance on the Blue Moon Publishers Blog - my post launched a new series called, Author Insights - it will be very cool to hear from different Blue Moon Authors.

Also, really pleased to be ask to do the guest appearance thing. It made me think of those great Quinn Martin Productions, where the guest stars are shown in a grid, or some bold graphic, while jazzy music plays.

Hey, a guy can dream right?

 

Here's the start of the blog:

Why I Write (The Perennial Writer's Question)

We asked literary YA author Craig Terlson, whose new book Fall In One Day launches this May, a simple question: Why do you write? His answer reveals that there’s more to this question than many assume! 

As long as there have been writers, people have been asking them, “Why do you write?” Now for me, this question differs from those other oft-repeated questions such as, “Where do you get your ideas?” (Value Village.) “Is the main character you?” (Yes. And so are all the rest.)

I actually find the question of why a writer writes intriguing. I love to collect famous writers’ responses. To be honest, some writers are kind of sourpusses about it. Cormac McCarthy says, “I don’t know why I started writing. I don’t know why anybody does it. Maybe they’re bored, or failures at something else.” Ouch, Cormac. Or Richard Ford, to paraphrase, says, “Only become a writer when you have tried everything else, and have no choice.”

For the rest of the post, visit the Blue Moon Blog.

 

And just in case you missed the Quinn Martin Productions reference - check out the jazzy opening to Streets of San Francisco.

Guest starring... John Ritter! (and others)

 

 

 

Friday
Apr072017

Woo-back - the Friday night movie edition

Almost forgot I promised to post something from the Woo-back machine every Friday. I think of it as machine that whirrs quietly under my desk, that belches green smoke when I fire it up into search mode. Or some times it just makes those quiet 1950s Sci-Fi noises, as it works. 

My imagination digresses.

Long-time readers of this blog know that I can tend to obsess over certain authors (um, GS anyone), but also movies, and whole movie eras (the 70s).

I've written a number of posts about Night Movies, one of my absolute faves. And it is high time I watched it again. I've seen it a lot of times, lost count really, but each time I see more. I don't think it's on NetFlix, in Canada they don't seem to have much of s back catalogue. But find it, do yourself a favour, and watch it this weekend.

(Check out the trailer - Oh, and make sure you read Ebert's review)

Here is my post from July 28, 2010:

 

 

I've heard that great novels (or even short stories) start with an image. John Fowles pictured a woman staring out to sea, and that became the French Lieutenant's Woman. I often think of the above picture, which in a way reminds me of Andrew Wyeth's paintings. There is a certain bleakness that I am drawn to, and I feel that some sort of story will come out of this picture. It helps that the landscape is barren, with surreal trees, and that the woman (my wife actually) is walking away from the viewer.

I've been thinking a lot about imagery and mood - having my own little film festival, rewatching some great pulp neo-noir movies like Point Blank and Night Moves.

 

Night Moves is one of those films that you know is great (not just me, many critics put it in the top ten of 1975, and the best of the 70's) - but you don't know why it is great. Sure, there is Gene Hackman, an actor I'd pay just to watch him shave.  And he is at the top of his game here. In the early 70's he did French Connection, The Conversation and even Young Frankenstein (best blind hermit in film - wait, I made espresso!) But back to Night Moves - it puts the grit in grit. The movie seems lo-buck, sets, lighting, even some of the acting seems like it was done on the cheap (it was). But it is the writing that cuts deep. I think it would have a real hard time getting made today. too personal, too circular, too subtle even.

But there are images in it that are embroiled in my brain - Hackman driving around in his beat up Mustang, Jennifer Warren's world weary face that asks him where he was when Kennedy died, and of course that last great shot of the boat going in circles, just like the movie, and sort of like life.

A great review by Ebert

Senses of Cinema

 

 

Thursday
Apr062017

So I Wrote a Book about Truth

As the launch of Fall in One Day gets closer (May 25), I have been reflecting on the release of this book into the current political climate. The phrase "political climate" is a nice way of saying, what in the freakin' hell is going on in the U.S.?!!! (insert your own exclamation points and swear words here).

As I wrote Fall in One Day, the theme of "truth" emerged in the novel – I'm fairy sure I didn't start there (it was a long time ago), but as I explored both the main character's (Joe) family, his politician father, and most of all the year of Watergate, 1973, I realized I was talking a lot about truth.

What does it mean when people in power lie to us? This happens, and has happened, all over the world - and so much so with the sitting, Orange Cheeto, president, that it has become numbing. I really appreciate movements of resistance that refuse to just let things go unnoticed. Even unnoticed is an understatement. A lot of people are collectively saying, can you believe this bullshit? And no, you can't.

This is one of themes that undergirds the novel. As I've said before on this blog, and lots of others have too, Watergate was a watershed moment for a lot of reasons - and it doesn't surprise me that is has stayed in the collective consciousness for more than 4 decades. It wasn't the first time politicians lied, that goes back to before Caeser. But the medium of television came more and more into our lives, which exposed the deceit, the corruption, the truthiness... okay, the outright lying our asses off nature of the president, Richard Nixon, and all those that surrounded him.

It was a moment in North American history (because it really affected us in Canada, even without the 24 hour news networks), and world history – although, stories moved a lot slower then. As an example of the speed of news in the 1970s, during one of the last edits of the novel, I brought in the concept of the Stockholm Syndrome, and how one of character might be experiencing it. I did some research to find out when this term was coined. I found out it was in 1973 (go figure - this is something that happened to me continuously while researching and writing the novel - a series of coinciding events gathered into one time and place). 

But then I had to ask - would the characters living in 1973 have heard of the syndrome enough that it would enter the collective lexicon? Again, news travelled a lot slower before CNN and Twitter. The hostage taking was in the summer, August, 1973, and Fall in One Day begin in the same month and year. It was an interesting thought experiment for me, to consider what it was like to not know of international events the same day, or hour that they happen.

I digress. But not on the truth.

The lens of Joe on his local, national, and somewhat, international world was one of wonder. That might not be the best word for it, as this suggests awe of something that is beautiful and inspiring. No, this was more a wondering of what is true. If those people we trust enough to elect are being dishonest, then where else is their dishonesty in my life. In other words, who is lying to me?

Trump, Spicer, Bannon, Conway, and the whole lot are continuing to push on this. Who is lying? Everyone. But who cares? Well, there's the problem. We all should. Not just at a political level, but a personal community level. I really value honesty in others (in fact, ask my kids the one value that was drilled into them from an early age: no matter what you did, you were always going to get into more trouble lying about it.)

As new readers come upon Fall in One Day - especially when it is released into the world - I am very interested to see if this exploration of truth is something that tweaks a wondering in them. Don't get me wrong, this novel is far from an essay or a diatribe on anything. But I believe fiction teaches us in a different way to view our world. And hopefully, it helps us to explore and try to understand who is telling the truth.

Thanks for reading.

 

Friday
Mar312017

The Mixed Nuts Genre - Woo-back noir edition

So you wrote a book? What genre is it in? Uhhhhhhh... can I get back to you on that?

Maybe because I've always read such a diverse array of books, or because, I love so many different style of music, or hell, even there isn't a food I won't try, that when it comes to writing - well, I'm either wildly creative in my choices, or I can't makeup my damn mind. 

I love literary fiction, what you'd call classics. Moby Dick is a favorite, as is most of Hemingway, Steinbeck, and a bunch of other smarty-pants stuff I can't bring to mind (oh wait, Faulkner, O'Connor, and Greene... especially Power and the Glory!) But I love just as much the great crime fiction writers, like John D. MacDonald, James Crumley, and I am a total fan boy of Joe R. Lansdale. Then there are the modern greats like George Saunders, Jennifer Egan and Richard Ford and DeLillo. Throw in some Marquez magic realism, and a love of kooky sci-fi writer Philip K. Dyck, and you start to see the mixed nuts can that is my brain.

I guess if you read my work, you're going to note this too. My first novel, Correction Line, took equal parts of crime and literary fiction and drizzled it with magic realism. Cross-genre? I think more like fusion cuisine. Do they still make that? You know when they take some food and cramming it with another totally different food? Pancakes stuffed with fois gras and Spanish rice. (Allow me to say, ew.)

Before I go on a long diatribe about how food needs to sometimes just be left alone to be what it can be... let me get to this week's woo-back.

On this very blog there was the weekly exploits of character living in Mexico who didn't want to be called a detective, even when others thought of him that way. I'm of course, talking about Luke Fischer from the novel Surf City Acid Drop, and the upcoming, if I ever finish writing it, sequel Manistique.

I released Luke to the reading public every Friday, and I loved how more and more people read him every week. Now, you would think if I started writing in the classic noir, detective genre, that I could stay there, at least for one book. Yeah, you would think that... but as usual, you, and I, would be wrong. But I started with the best of noir intentions, and had a helluva lot of fun doing it.

So for this Friday's woo-back, here is that original first chapter of Surf City. Crack a Pacifico and enjoy.

 

Surf City Acid Drop: One

 

 

I cracked the first of a pair of Pacificos and guzzled half the icy brew in one pull. The last edge of a red dime dipped into the horizon. I pressed the tea towel bag against the back of my head – trying to cool it down, ease the swelling, extinguish the pain like the sun sinking into the cold Pacific. Damn, I missed my calling as a poet. Or a beer salesman.

My perch was a faded red naugahyde bar stool, one of a long row in the El Rayo Verde, named after that flash of green that people swear they see on the horizon right before the sun makes its final dip. I’d never seen it. Jimmy, an ex-cowboy and sometime Chippendale dancer from Bismark, knew what I needed when I came in with something that hurt. He called it the triple play. Two cold ones crammed in a bucket of ice and a tea towel. The beers exited the bucket, and the ice went in the cloth, which then got applied to the swollen part. Then the beer went in me – and exited a bit later in the bano. Beer, ice, bano – it was a helluva good system.

Jimmy was the perfect bartender for someone that wanted to sit on a stool and not have to say a damn word. The El Rayo had a decent stereo that hung above a row of tequila bottles that went from icy white to dark amber, all of them catching the fading light of a Mexican sunset. The Sandals twanged their way through Endless Summer, and I let that deep wet reverb wash over me like a breaking wave at sunset. Beer, ice, and damn fine tunes in a palapa, made everything seem about fifty percent better.

I popped the second Pacifico with the opener Jimmy left me when he gave me the bucket and its requisite companion, peanuts saltier than the dead sea with a bite of heat. Jimmy always doused them in Cholula before he served them.

The light had shifted to that gorgeous PV-purple, and cast the beachside bar in a warm Mexican glow. Jimmy strolled around like he always did at this time of night, lighting his green candles. He’d put the Sandals on repeat. Man, if I had any money I’d tip him.

Counting up the situation, it wasn’t so bad. Sure, I let Charmer and his bulked up playmates split first my head and then the scene. And yeah, I had to phone Mrs. Charmer, or I guess ex-Charmer, and tell her I might need a bit more time and cash, if she could spare it, to find the deadbeat. Beatrice was a beautiful woman that deserved a lot better. I wanted to do well by her. And if that meant caving in a certain lizard tatted head, well, I’d be happy to oblige. But that was for another day. I lifted two fingers and waved them at Jimmy.

“Add a J and C to that Mr. James.”

I’ll give him this, the guy knew how to enter a room, sharply pressed pink shirt and cream pants, a crease you could cut your hand on, topped off with a short brimmed white fedora with a band the exact shade of his shirt.

“I don’t want hear about anything that sounds like work, Benno.”

“Luke, my banged up friend. Jimmy’s gonna need to buy a whole new ice machine you keep coming in like that.”

I lifted the bag off, and set it next to the bucket, a trail of water dripped onto the clay tiles. The drinks came, Jimmy swapped my old bucket for a new one. He held the towel out for me, and I draped it over my neck. I pulled a Pacifico from its icy depths and popped it open. Benno’s squeezed the lime wedge into a J and C, his own slang for Jamaican Rum and Coke, and sipped at the edge.

“Did she have nice legs at least?”

“What do you want, Benno?”

“Just to see my good friend, and yes, offer a bit of work. How are things in your bank account? You too high on it to take some good honest work?”

Jimmy’s stereo came off repeat and went into a slow Hawaiian number.

“Is anything you do honest?”

“Ouch. No need to get nasty.” Benno gave that finger flip off the nose that he always did. “Small party, exclusive even, I need a bit of security at the door. Easy as that Mexican brew slips through you.”

It was true that Benno kept me in tacos and Pacificos. Lately, besides Mrs. Charmer back in Wisconsin, things had been pencil-thin. Last month, I had taken the long ride back up north, and thought I’d just keep driving, right to the arctic circle if it seemed right. But after talking with Beatrice at a local cheese and draft joint, damned if I didn’t find myself doing a u-turn on the I-90. It was cosmic luck, or the joke of the universe, when she told me that she thought her husband had headed to the place I’d left only a week before.

“Who’s the party for?” I asked.

“The usual.”

“That’s not a word that works for your parties. When is it?”

“Tomorrow night. Come around 9:00. People will start showing before ten.”

Benno sipped his J and C, and I finished my bucket, and considered going for the triple-triple. The ice on my head, and the lake of hops in my belly created a smooth wave of happiness. 

“So you’ll be there, right?”

Benno slipped me a folded paper with the address and instructions. I’d been there before, but he gave me the info out of habit.

“Shhh,” I said, and pocketed the paper without looking at it.

The purple had dipped into a enveloping indigo, Jimmy’s beacons of green light reflected off the rough and yellowed walls. An ocean breeze came up and swept through the place – it was like everyone sighed at once. I don’t know what Jimmy had on the stereo, I didn’t recognize it, or maybe the beer softened my memory, but it was the most perfect song for that time of night.

“Luke?”

Benno touched my shoulder in that way he did with people.

“Shhh.”

Across the bar, a woman undid the elastic from her ponytail, and shook down a yard of brunette tresses. In the dim light, I couldn’t quite tell, but she had to be around my age, beautifully matured, just the right amount of lines around her stunning eyes. How did I not see her before? I tilted my Pacifico in her direction and was gifted with a slight nod. Even that was perfect. All I needed was a nod. I had no intention of introducing myself. Besides the fact that I looked like something dragged behind a segunda bus, I didn’t want to ruin the moment of hearing the ocean wind mixed with a beautiful woman’s smile. I let it hang there, lit by Jimmy’s verde candles, and played against a soundtrack of Hawaiian steel guitar. Maybe Mexican folk songs would have fit better, but I’d always loved the sound of vibrating steel guitar.

“I’ll be there.” I said to Benno, but he’d already left, his drink barely touched. Damn, the guy was silent and smooth that way.

“Where else have I got to go?” I asked one of the candles.

 

 

Next time in Surf City Acid Drop...

 

Barely twelve hours ago I thought I had everything sewn up. I found the guy. I just needed to bring him to justice - isn’t that what Perry Mason said, or maybe it was Jack Lord. As happened a bit too often, I had just regained consciousness.

 

 

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