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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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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.

 

 

Friday
Mar242017

Woo-back machine - baby light my head on fire

It's Friday, so here's something from the Woo-back machine. 10 years ago, wow, back when the White Stripes were a band, not the colour of my beard.

I guess I'd say this has always been a central thing for me - the fast writing, bang those keys like you mean it - and I was just mentioning to someone the other day this image of hair-on-fire (as opposed to pants on fire, which goes with the current administration in the U.S.) So I still remember writing this cool little story about my doorbell's ringing.

From the woo-back machine...Feb. 21, 2007...

Flaming noggin' writing

 

 

Some days the words come easier than others.

When I am blocked for an idea, or more often, too lazy/uninspired to work on the story I am supposed to be working on, I have to give my head a shake – a HARD shake. It's not really automatic writing (if anyone recalls that odd exercise from English class where you scribble down the first thing that comes into your head), but it is a way of forcing you into a story, any story.

Somewhere, a while back, I came across a quote that said, "Write like your head is on fire and words are the only thing that can put it out." 
I always loved that image - and this is what I am thinking of when I do the "head-shake" exercise. In other words: just write something DAMMIT and write it NOW!

Early last week I was in desperate need of this, as nothing was flowing, hell, it wasn't even dripping. So I cranked on itunes, set it shuffle and wrote in that blazing head style. It began:

It was one of those odd things, synchronicity, the White Stripes thinking about my doorbell ringing and it actually happening, the ringing I mean. Some guy in a shaggy green coat, like a rug with buttons, doing a jig, a two-step on my front step. I saw him through the stained glass window, in the clear part, above the Celtic cross.

Of course, the White Stripes were playing on my itunes. A very odd story started to pour out of my flaming noggin' - the tunes shuffled and I followed along. At the end of it I liked what I had written, yes it was strange, but it was something, a story, not just rambling.

I put it away for a couple of days and then brought it back out into the light - I try to put stories away for a while, usually longer than a couple days. To my surprise, it wasn't utter drivel, in fact I liked it quite a bit. I worked on it, tweaking here and there, but tried to maintain the spark, the freshness. Then I sent it off to see if anyone else might like it.

I was delighted when I received an email from the U.K. based magazine 3:AM. It's known for an edgy style and as their tagline say, "Whatever it is, we're against it". They liked the piece and wanted to publish it in an upcoming issue.

I need to light my head on fire more often.

Here's the link to the story in 3:AM magazine.

 

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And here's a bonus 2017 addition the incredible White Stripes video for My Doorbell!

 

Monday
Mar202017

One more, cuz it's Monday

It been Monday (aka #mondayblogs) - I thought I'd post something extra this week. Especially because, as mentioned, I've got a new search feature on my blog that I'm way to excited about - probably just me - but it is interesting to view what I was thinking about as I navigated the bumpy writer's road to publication back in those days.

Currently, I'm working on a post for my publisher's blog on "Why I write - or why anyone should."
Searching through woofreakinhoo, I found that this is a topic I've discussed before (understatement). But the why I write question is a frequent one for all writers. I don't see it so much as naval gazing, as when faced with something so damn difficult, it is no wonder that we ask ourselves: why the fuck do I do this thing again? Can't I just go bowling?

Anyway, back in 2013, in the woo-back machine, I found myself, once again, wondering why I write. Around this time I had been dabbling with Self-publishing, and to be honest not having a lot of success with it. Well, except for giving away free books. I could give away free books all day long. My first novel, Correction Line, was given away in the thousands. But ask someone to cough up a buck or two for a self-pubbed novel... that was a whole 'nother thing. So writing sure wasn't about the money – because there was no money.

 

Here's the post:

Why I write 2.0 (The Profit Version)

I was posting something at a writer's site where I hang out - and thought I would share it here at the blog. A writer, maybe young, I am not sure, asked about the profitability of being a writer. As usual, lots of writers chimed in that there is no profit in being a writer. I don't fault these writers at all - I share their sentiment about the monetary side of writing.

So I wrote this in response:

(edited to protect the names)

I always find it kinda sad when I see these posts (and don't get me wrong ____, I don't mind you asking at all), just that the responses are usually like others - there is no profit.

And I have been known to post the very same. It seems like writing for profit these days, even minimal, is such a long long long shot. We talk about back in the day when the big pubs paid decent cash, and there were just more of them. Truth is, there were fewer writers trying to do it.

So the paying markets have shrunk - and the amount of writers trying to publish has... well, I don't even have a number that can represent that (kajupled?) Add that to a time when self-publishing is easier than it has ever been, and what do you get? More writers. 

I've read a lot of self-published writing - trying to gauge the market - and I have to say, there is a lot out there that is not ready for press. That doesn't even mean quality of writing - simple typo's and grammatical errors abound, along with the Swiftian adverbs, and clichés you could cut with a knife.

This is seeming tangential, but maybe I will find my way back. I have tried all of the above, collected rejections from the bigs, pubbed in the smalls, actually scored a great agent, and had my novel read by the big 6 (unsold). I have self-published (just put out a collection last week), and made an embarrassingly small amount of money. But boy did I give away a lot of books.

I am using your question as a jumping off point, but here is the thing. This whole journey has led me to really question why I write... I mean really question it. Work hours and hours and days, weeks, etc. on something that will maybe make you enough to buy a case a beer (non-import)? Seems kinda nutty. But I realized after all the frustration, I write because I have to. There is nothing I would rather do - and nothing fills me creatively, intellectually, or spiritually as much as the craft of a well-told story.

I am back looking for agents again, collecting pennies for my self-published efforts, and subbing the odd story to the big, small,and tiny magazines. But above all, I am writing. And now with a different purpose. Which is much more profitable than any of my other efforts. It helps make me human.

Sorry for the pontification - your question and subsequent responses just grabbed me. There is, as I always tell my artistic kids (actor/comedian/theatre major... oy), the grand "you never know." And so I still write for that too.

Best of luck with all your writing.

 

End note - in posting this, I feel I am being more forthright about my self-publishing than in the past. True, I have been disappointed by my sales in that area. So why release another collection? (As I did just last week.) The explanation is somewhat hard to articulate, but I do know this release is different than my other ones. I am very proud of these stories, and I wanted to feel as if they were truly finished - even the ones previously published. I loved writing them, I liked re-writing and ordering them into a theme, and loved putting them into a book form. Basically, it was about the artistic buzz. Would I love lots of people to read them? Of course. But I've been down that road. For me writing has a new purpose - or maybe one that was always there, and only has just now re-emerged.

Friday
Mar172017

Search Me! No, really.


Not sure why I've only done this now, but I've added a search function for woofreakinhoo. And as a friend of mine says, I'm really chuffed - which I am thinking is a good thing, right?

I'm not looking it up on Urban Dictionary, because you never know what you're going to get there. It's like searching for medical symptoms on the web - you're always only three clicks away from cancer.

It occurred to me that this blog has been around for quite awhile. And I'm kinda loving digging around the archives. So I've decided to add something new - a throwback machine if you will. On Fridays, I will dig up an old post and put it up. Why you ask? Well, I'm a sucker for nostalgia. But also a lot more people read this blog now, and it will be fun to show some of the historicity. That's gotta be a word, right?

In the Friday Woo-back Machine... (I just made that up)... a short one on Saramago - who still amazes me.

From March 30, 2009

The Writer Writes... 

The writer of this blog has been reading a book, quite a wonderful book, in which the sentences ramble on yet always with purpose and interspersed with dialogue that emerges within the narrative, flowing uninterrupted by punctuation, or at least quotation marks, Puzzling he says aloud and waits for a response from anyone near by, to which his wife replies, Come down for supper you lunkhead, and he sighs and searches for the end of sentence which approaches but never seems to arrive, until at last he can hit the small white square on his keyboard that denotes a full stop.

 

How in the hell does Jose Saramago write whole novels that way?

(Finally getting around to reading Blindness).

 

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Let me know what you think of the throwback - and search away in that box in the upper right corner.