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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


So when did you begin that book? (In the woo-back)

As time draws closer to the release of Fall in One Day (May 16), and the launch at McNally Robinson (May 25),

I thought I'd crank up the woo-back machine - sorry, forgot to turn it on last Friday – and see when I first started blogging about this book.

It looks like about 10 years ago... whoa. I'll pause on that a moment. And I was in the middle of writing class. This is probably the earliest snippet of the novel. And even though it went through a dump truck full of changes, cuts and edits over the years - some of this actually still appears in the finished novel. Kinda cool.
Have a read:



Fall in One Day

leaves2.jpgI've been working on a new piece for my class. A long one.
Here is an excerpt from "Fall in One Day".

The first week of September is just an extension of summer.School starts and there is an excitement to that, even those who dread the day have to admit it. When the last bell rings, I jump on my bike and the seat burns my ass, which reminds me that last week it was August. Peeling across the soccer field, past the wire cage that surrounds the school, and riding past the pool, it's almost like I could fool myself into thinking that it's still summer, except the pool has been drained and a couple of poplar leaves are stuck on the yellowed bottom.

The wind that pushes me home has the smallest hint of cold, barely there – I sort of think I am imagining it because the calendar tells me its coming. Fall. When we are lucky it last a few weeks, but some years it's a day. It's an amazing windy day where every leaf is torn off every tree and launched into this aerial parade – like soft fireworks echoing the fair that started the summer. I remember watching them with Brian on the bank of the river. How good it felt to lay back on the grass, our shirts dusty and sweaty from a day of riding the Zipper, knocking over bottles with baseballs and breaking our teeth on candied apples. Just like the breeze tells me that fall is coming, and as much as I loved watching those Roman Candles, the fireworks told me that the summer would be over before I knew it.


Get Bent - Time Travel (woofreakinhoo style)

A writer colleague messaged me this morning and said,

I just read Bent Highway and LOVED it. Where's the rest?

...Yes, indeed, where is the rest?

This should go into the wooback machine - except the story is no longer here on the blog. So some background is in order...

Bent Highway was my first foray into Serial Fiction. Chapters were released a week at a time here at the woo-blog. (I did this again with a certain detective who likes Mexican beer). I loved the rush of having to come up with a new chapter every week, really putting into place my "write like your head is on fire and only words can put it out" adage.)

I am not sure if it's because time travel is a popular subject - or the weirdness of the story - but Bent Highway attracted a lot of viewers. At it's peak more than 2000 readers came to catch up on the exploits of "M".

I catch myself thinking about this story every once in a while. I left the reader (and actually, the writer) hanging. I called it Part One, put it up on Amazon for the grand sum of .99 and that was it.

But now... hmmm. I did really like that crazy-ass story. And my writer friend seemed to as well. I am kind of thinking it might be time for a reboot.

For now, here is how it began...
 - oh, and if you think this is something you'd like to read more of, drop me a note on twitter, or post a comment below. If people want this thing - I will write this thing.


Bent Highway
chapter one 

I clacked open my Zippo and held it under the bent coffee spoon. I watched the thin blue flame dance, not thinking of anything, just following the reflections and the metal turning colours. Did I have the guts to put the hot spoon to the barely scabbed over gash that grinned at me like it was about to break wide open and gush red ants – I was going to cauterize the mother.

Crazy shit like that had been going through my brain for over a month, or maybe longer. For me, time was a dog's breakfast shoved in a blender and spun out like a crazy woman's quilt. I knew it had been at least a year since I first started driving. I think I had that right. The handle of the spoon warmed in my hand, I'd have to drop it soon. It was ready. I'd make damn sure nothing would bust out of there.

"Honey, what in the hell are you about to do?"

I jerked back, slammed my lighter shut, and plunged the spoon into the coffee.

"You need a warm up, you just gotta ask."

The waitress was pushing forty-five, but her hair spilled across her shoulders like she could still turn heads at the 7-11. A badge dangled off one of her pointed breasts and shouted at me Dandy Diner, and underneath in a curled script that made me wince, Janine.

She poured the coffee into the cup with my rocket hot spoon. It had made a little sizzle when I dunked it in the murky brew.

"Good and hot now. Anything else?"

I shook my head. I waited for her to say something about a rough night or some other corn-pone inquiry – you out slamming  cougars against the rose bushes again? I shouldn't be hard on poor Janine. She probably had herself a trailer park boyfriend with a pack of cigs rolled up his sleeve, a tattoo that said bitchin' and a piece of shit car he treated better than her.

Here was the thing: between the black patches of my so called memory and the pictures in my head that were soaked in flourscent dye, I couldn't tell if I had a rough night, week, month or life. I sipped my coffee and considered that I'd finally lost it, checked into the faraway hotel, which was a helluva lot worse than the one in California, and a damn sight harder to check out of.

I finished the last greasy egg before it slid off my plate and guzzled the coffee. Okay, my body and mind ached bad enough for it to be hungover. But where the hell did that cut come from? That was a big-ass scab. 


Here is a link to a bit more about the story.

And here is the amazon link - but tell you what. If you like this thing, and send me a comment - I'll send you part one for free!


Woo-back - Ford vs Gaiman

It was funny, and illuminating, to go back and read this post from 2009. I think I might voice it differently, now.

I still love, love, Ford and anything he writes - but I think I was a bit harsh with Gaiman. With the upcoming American Gods show, I thought this was timely to bring up again.

And same goes with Stephen King - since that time 8 years ago, I've read some more King, admired his On Writing book. More importantly, I've further understood the brilliance of Gaiman. My favourite of his is still Neverwhere (I have an autographed copy from the one time I met him.)

I recently reread Ford's story, Empire. And once again read that excerpt aloud to my patient wife.

From the Woo-back machine - cage match: Ford/Gaiman.


It's better in a FORD, my bookclub is discussing American Gods by Neil Gaiman. It's a bit of departure from a club that in the past couple of years has looked at Moby Dick, Children of the Alley (Naguib Mahfouz) and Gilead (Marilynne Robinson) - those of you who are genre-jumpers like me know that "departure" is an understatement.

I like Gaiman's work, but I don't love it. American Gods doesn't have the deep resonance of a book like Gilead – though, that is really like comparing apples to Winnebagos. But I admire his storytelling ability, in the same way that I admire (but don't love) Stephen King.

It got me thinking about plot and story, and specifically, how much happens in a story. Gaiman has people tied up in trees sitting vigil for Odin as other gods swoop down on thunderbirds and the true god of Easter makes dead plants live and wives come back from the dead, and mystic moon goddesses produce golden coins and magic, and blood and, and, and....
Yes, it is a sort of breathless fiction.

Then I read this from the other book on my bedside.

"The train flashed through a small Montana town without stopping – two crossing gates with bells and red lanterns, a row of darkened stores, an empty rodeo corral with two cows standing alone under a bright floodlight. A single car was waiting to cross, its parking lights shining. It all disappeared. Sims could hear a train whistle far off."

On man, how I LOVE Richard Ford. The above is from his story, "Empire", from Rock Springs. I came across that paragrah and I immediately wanted to slow down, to read it again, to be there on that train, seeing the cows, the lights, hearing the whistle. It is so evocative of mood and place and full of resonance. But why? Isn't it just a couple of cows in a nowhere town? Where the hell is Odin and that crazy moon goddess? Could somebody please blow something up?

And that's the strange thing. Gaiman's work moves at a breakneck speed across the page, in my brain and right out again. Nothing sticks. Don't get me wrong, I am NOT a book snob - I say if you love it, hell, even if you just like it, then READ IT! (Notable exception: Any book by Dan Brown - which should be banned in schools, not for content, but for promoting horrible, shallow writing) I digress.

Richard Ford stories get into my head and they stay there. That's why I read and re-read his work. And Gaiman, yeah, I'll read another one, because like a ice-cold Coors Light on a blazing summer day, it tastes good - but it goes right through ya.
I guess I try to place my own fiction somewhere between these two. I strive to create moments of resonance like Ford can, but once in a while I want to blow something up – to create something that will make the reader go, "Hey, that's cool." Because I know cows under streetlights doesn't do it for everyone.

Link to interview with Richard Ford on publication of, "A Multitude of Sins" - another book I am re-reading.

Gaiman's official site.


First media review

Excited to read the first media review of Fall in One Day this morning.

The magazine CM: Canadian Review of Materials is a great, and long standing, publication run by university and library people. I really liked what they had to say about the book.

Here is the first part of it:

Joe Beck’s world is turned upside down when his friend Brian goes missing. Thinking that the police and other adults don’t seem to be doing much to solve the mystery, Joe enlists the help of his brother Karl and their stoner friend Dennis to follow the clues, figure out what’s going on and bring Brian home safely. They understand this may uncover some long-hidden secrets, but it has to be done if Brian is to be rescued.

 Craig Terlson captures the feelings and reactions of 15-year-old Joe very well. At times, Joe is decisive and adult, making and executing plans in order to find his friend. Yet he also doubts his own abilities, afraid that he will look or act childish. This is a coming-of-age story in which the main character eventually learns more about himself and the world around him, despite failures, setbacks and his own worry and occasional hesitation.

 4 Stars - Highly Recommended


Go here to read the whole review (including an excerpt)



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).