Search woofreakinhoo
  • 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

Login
Sunday
Mar122017

Guest blogging (somewhere else that is)

I'm working on a new upcoming blog post - but this time it will be as a guest blogger. My publisher, the fabulous (yes, I said, fabulous), Blue Moon Publishers has asked me to sit in their blog chair in April. Hmm, I think they have a blog chair. Hope so. I imagine it looking the one shown above.

So I am feverishly working on that right now. Okay, it's a low grade fever.

I love that they asked me to do this, as things are getting closer to the launch of Fall in One Day – so it is exciting times.

If you're just dying for the latest woofreakinhoo post (um, yeah), well here is a snippet of an interview I did for BMP.

***

Join us as we chat with author Craig Terlson, the newest member of the Blue Moon Publishers family, about his writing and upcoming literary YA novel Fall In One Day!

Have you always wanted to be a writer? 

Even though I ended up with a career as an illustrator, and then later, graphic designer, my earliest memory as a kid was wanting to be an “author” (which is what I called it – because, anybody could write, right?). As a kid, I was a voracious reader, even plowing through the World Book Encyclopedia, which impressed my parents and annoyed my sisters. I always figure if you read enough books, eventually you will want to write them.

What inspired you to begin writing Fall In One Day? Did you draw from personal experiences? 

In the 1980s I worked in the hospital where LSD testing was first experimented with in the 1950s. Growing up in the same city, I’d always heard the tales of alternative treatments for addictions and psychiatric patients, but I never knew the full story.

Years later, as I read about the history of LSD therapy, I was amazed at the fascinating connections that all led back to my hometown. I combined this history with my own memories of growing up in the 1970’s in a small Canadian city. We were TV kids, being amongst the first to get U.S. television stations because of our proximity to the border. I still remember watching Watergate, and wondering what the hell was going on down there.

These experiences wove together to form Fall In One Day.

Can you describe your revision and/or editorial process?

I do ascribe to the Stephen King adage of writing the first draft with the door closed (from On Writing). But once I have the shape of something, I am a huge believer in beta-readers and editors to help me see the things I missed. As I gather comments, and my own insights from leaving the manuscript rest for a while, I begin to revise by asking two main questions: “Why?” and “Is this true?” For something like a novel, that’s a lot of questioning. I also don’t do a chronological edit, page by page, until much later. Instead I jump around to different parts, and try to deal with the various problems that emerge. Sometimes, like with Fall In One Day, I need to put a book away for a couple of years before I can really come back to it with fresh insight.

 

Pop over to Blue Moon for the rest of the interview.

Monday
Feb272017

The Parallax View - (Watergate on the Tube: Part Two)

Okay, where was I? Oh yeah, having my whole concept of what was, and what wasn't, true challenged as I sat in front of the tube watching the Watergate hearings. 1973... right.

I was too young to really understand what was going on, but in my memory I felt the tension. For sure, now, I can go back and watch clips on youtube, but I'm trying more to think about what it meant back then.

Let me start with a Charlie Chaplin reference, cuz, um why not? When I lived in Toronto in my 20s, I fell in love with Repertory cinemas – I'd always loved movies, and especially the weird ones (it was a few decades before I would hear the term "art house" or "indy films.") The Rep houses were my education in weird film, as well as really old films. There was one theatre called the Nostalgia that showed silent classics, Keaton, Harold Lloyd, and of course, Chaplin. When I started watching them, I didn't get it at first. Chaplin was funny and gifted to be certain, but so many of his routines and physical comedy had been done before. Then it hit me. Wait a sec... Chaplin did them first. I remember that moment with great clarity. I saw that all the others were impressions of Chaplin, but he had started it. Hard to explain, but this was a pivotal moment.

I digress, silently, like Chaplin – but for a reason.

Maybe this is a stretch (probably is... and too late), but I think of Watergate in these terms. In our current society, we have come to expect that politicians will lie – corruption and falsehoods are just part of it. Sure the current orange cheeto that is unexplainably still in power, has pushed this to an even farther extreme. And I'm not going to say he has made an art out of lying, because no credit of any kind should be given. But let's just say we have become used to lying politicians. No one expects campaign promises to be fulfilled. 

I am not saying that Watergate was the first time politicians lied, or even the first time they were caught doing it. I'm sure a quick look at Wiki-google-pedia will pop up many instances of people in power lying. Go have a look. I'll wait.

.......

 

See.

But here's the thing, Watergate was the first time that this sort of hearing was put across all the major networks, and beamed into our living rooms. Even the little Canadian ones, like mine, kicking off Star Trek, Hogan's Heroes, Gilligan's Island, Columbo, or any of the wonderous shows of my growing up. I already talked about this in the last post, so it must just be a sore point (and to be honest, those might not have even been the shows that were pre-empted.) 

My point is this was a major shift in culture – amidst a plethora of other shifts, which made for a turbulent time, but also a fascinating time for artists and film makers. In no way am I making light of the severity of the corruption by saying – oh well, at least great art came out of it. But it is interesting to look back at American movies in the 70s (referred by many as the Golden Age of American film), and see how a society was trying to make sense of these shifts. More than the shifts, trying to make sense of a government that told lies.

As mentioned before, the heyday of paranoia films came out of the 70s. Have a look at the Parallax View, staring Mr. Major Lefty, and oscar flubber, Warren Beatty himself. Altman films also had that paranoid vibe, as did Coppola movies (especially The Conversation). And a crime movie that I've blogged about before, Night Moves with Gene Hackman. The endings of these movies did not offer much solace. Beatty's character (Joe Frady... Frady for Pete's sake, why didn't I recognize that before?), when he finally understands the conspiracy in the Parallax View, is killed. Hackman's character at the end of the Conversation destroys his apartment looking for bugging equipment, and then plays the loneliest sax solo in his self-ransacked bathroom. Hackman, again, at the end of Night Moves is on a boat that goes in a slow continuous circle, a sign that nothing has been solved. The 70s were full of downer endings – so it wasn't like we were being told, "yes, you are being lied to, but it will all work out". Because it didn't.

I reflect a lot on this time in history – the 70s remain my favorite movie era of all time – but even more so in our current climate. We know we are being lied to, we may even be complacent to it (sometimes it sure seems that way). But like the odd complacency of seeing Chaplin do all those "old" routines, I pivot in my brain and remember that time when TV told me that people in power were lying to us... to me.

 

Here is a paragraph from my novel Fall in One Day that captures a similar moment happening to the lead character Joe Beck, a 15-year-old. Joe is stuck in front of the TV when Watergate comes on, and talks to his dad about it. (The Martians has to do with that lovely green glow that early TV sets had when the colour was wonky.)

***

I’m pretty sure nothing like that has ever happened around here, or not that anyone has ever told me. Just like those guys on TV, the real stuff gets hidden.

“A bunch of liars.”

“What did you say?” Dad asked.

“Those guys. You can tell.” I pointed at the glowing screen slowly being filled up with Martians.

Dad got up to fiddle with the knobs. “This is complicated stuff, Joe. I don’t think someone your age can quite understand what’s going on.”

Mom brought in supper to us—the burned smell was the roast, but at least the gravy was good. She put the food onto the foldout tables, and the three of us listened together. My mother smiled as she passed me the salt, whispering, “Here you go.”

Finally, they finished what they called a Special Report, with one last picture of a guy with slicked-down hair. None of these guys looked like crooks, but I knew right then that I was right. These guys were definitely lying. And I figured something else out: they were really good at it.

***

The above from my novel, Fall in One Day - which is now available for pre-order at Amazon.

Thanks for reading! 

And finally the trailer from Parallax View:

 

 

 

Thursday
Feb162017

Watergate and other truths from the tube (Part One)

This week my novel was released on NetGalley – a service I only learned about recently, since working with my publisher. This is a very exciting moment for me as it is the first wave of readers for Fall In One Day (there have been some advance readers before this, who read "not quite finished" versions of the novel).

But as the novel goes into the wild, or goes out there in stages (one jungle tree at a time? Looking for the proper wilderness metaphor but coming up short), I'm very curious to see if the story and characters that have been in my head for a number of years will catch a reader's interest.

While I await for the full launch and release of Fall in One Day, I find that I've been wondering about the releasing of a novel, at this time in our political history, that has the going-ons of 1973 as its historical backdrop – notably, I am thinking about Watergate.

Watergate has always fascinated me. In 1973, I was 10 years old, and a child of the library and American TV. I say the library because I spent hours there, I was an advanced reader for my age, and devoured books of all genres. The American TV had to do with growing up in a city, one of the first in Canada, to have more than a few channels. We didn't know it as cable TV (all TVs had cables, so what would "cable TV" mean?) We called it "Co-Ax". At the time, I had no idea that was the name of the cable (co-axial) that plugged us into the wonder of a multi-channel universe. My wife grew up in a larger city that only had 2 channels, both Canadian. I grew up in a place that had 7, or 8 channels, if you counted the French one. As a testament to those days, I can still recite the channels: 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13 and the French one.(10 maybe?) 


Now the great mother-corp., CBC was on 2, and it was mostly boring... unless you liked hockey, news, Tommy Hunter, and the Pig and Whistle (an odd British Pub, that was actually filmed in Toronto, that became a popular show, my mother's favourite in fact). Channels 3 and 7 were out of the small city of Yorkton. Now why a small city would have two stations, where the capital (Regina, my wife's city) only had one, was a mystery I didn't delve into, or even care about. Whoever was running this station had the wisdom to feed me a steady stream of spaghetti westerns, war pictures, and kooky spy stuff (Not just Bond, but Flint, and Matt Helm!

 

But besides the two movie channels, which was how I thought of the Yorkton stations, it was all about the channels 6 and 13. Both were from North Dakota, Minot and Williston, and this was American TV – a whole 'nother thing. Shows sounded different, actors looked different, and were actually famous people, the commercials were different, all the kids shows were cooler, trippy even (H.R. Pufnstuf anyone?). Shows like Star Trek were in syndication, as was Hogan's Heroes, Mayberry, and Dick Van Dyke. I was forced to sit through the Canadian channels as my parents usually decided what we were watching (see above list). One oddity, a show that could have been co-written by Norman Lear and David Lynch, was a variety show on Yorkton TV, called "Profile" – basically, a local talent show. I could fill a whole blog post on this show (maybe later) – just to say that a lot of my memories from this era were of waiting for the time when I could switch back to the U.S. station to watch Columbo, Mannix, re-watch another Star Trek, or another Eastwood/Leone western. My parents liked Gunsmoke and Bonanza, but after watching Clint stare down Indigo, with a hammered metal plate under his poncho, taking shot after shot into the chest... well Hoss and Little Joe arguing, or Miss Kitty doing whatever she did, just didn't cut it.

So in the summer of '73, on vacation, and eating up as much TV as I could before getting my ass booted outside to "get the stink blown off me" (a fave expression of my mother's), something came on the air that interrupted the steady flow of detectives, gunslingers, and Starship captains. Every show got kicked off the air for the cameras to watch a room full of men, maybe some women too (I'm sure there were both), talk for hours about something that had happened in the U.S. government. They seemed, in my somewhat blurry memory, to be in a bleacher type setting. Rows and rows of them, microphones, earpieces, names appearing under whomever was speaking, a tone of seriousness, something was definitively going down.

Now at first, I was just pissed, and bored. I didn't understand any of it. And watching it for long periods didn't make things any clearer. I figured it would play out, and they'd be back to Kirk fighting the Gorn any minute. But it just kept going and going, day after day. Mom didn't have to boot me outside. I'd wake up, flick on the tube, see the hearings still going on, and flick it off.

Still, a fascination began to develop - something that became full blown obsessions later, in my teen years and early 20's, and then much later when I first wrote a chapter of a novel that would become Fall in One Day.

I realized, even as a 10 year-old, that something was happening that had not happened before. And this wasn't a movie, this was news. They called it Watergate, and I didn't know why. Was that the name of a person, a place, an event? I sensed the seriousness. I'd like to think I sensed the truth being hidden – but I wonder if that came after. So many of my favourite movies from the 1970s explored this idea of truth being hidden. Three Days of the Condor (1975), Parallax View (1974), Night Moves (1975)... though, in a sense a detective movie, still one that obscured truth, a truth that the main character never uncovers (brilliantly shown at the end of the film with the visual metaphor of a boat going in circles), and of course, All the President's Men, (I have lost count how many times I've seen this film.)

The idea of Watergate and what it meant for all of us, not just for the United States, touches on the whole idea of hidden truth.

I'll explore more of what this meant then, and what it means in our current political environment in my next post.

But for now, do "enjoy" some trippy fun. The one and only LSD inspired (I am sure), H.R. Pufnstuf!

Sunday
Feb052017

Just talk natural, why dontcha?

My understanding of literature at this time was: great writing was hard reading. What made something great was you could barely understand it.

... A good literary sentence was like a floor with a hole hidden in it. You dropped into the basement and, scratching your head, thought, "Why'd he say it that way? He must be a really great writer."

From George Saunders essay, Mr. Vonnegut in Sumatra in The Braindead Megaphone.

I could probably just go on writing quotes, or maybe just type out the whole essay, and call it a day. But better, you should just go pick up this book. Of course, Saunders is on my mind, he is always on my mind. But with the pending release of his very first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, he is even more so.
But in this post, I want to talk about what this essay triggered for me.

Saunders goes on to talk about his first encounter with Vonnegut's classic novel, Slaughterhouse Five. And how at 23, he didn't really get it (even railed against it) – but the book became transformative in so many ways in the future years, especially after he moved out of his Ayn Rand Republican hippy-hating self. And I know from reading his other work, and in interviews, how it took him some time to realize that literature (or better, just great writing) could come out of language that was more easily understood. That language being the kind he grew up with in blue-collar Chicago. Vonnegut also showed him that it was okay to be funny – and that funny, accessible work could be considered great writing, and even, gasp... literature.

One more from the essay:

Humor is what happens when we're told the truth quicker and more directly that we're used to.

Wow. Let's just pause on that one for a while.

...

...

...

Wow.

So here come the similarities... Saunders is a few years older than me, and I didn't grow up in Chicago, or become an engineer. But, I grew up in a place with people who were just people. They didn't have strange exotic lives, where philosophy and science and great art was discussed in some late-night coffee/beatnik club. The works of Kant, Shakespeare, Hemingway, Doris Lessing, or Einstein weren't open discussions at the hockey rink. Or maybe they were, and I just never heard about that. But no, I'd more likely hear the story about the kid that got shit-faced at a bush party, almost fell in the fire, before he went home and combined half a wheat field while he was still three sheets to the wind.

Three sheets to the wind was a favourite expression of my mother's to explain a drunk person. I never knew what it meant (I'm still a little unsure), but it's just wonderful.

Similar to Saunders, when I thought about great literature, the stuff I was forced to read in my Advanced English Class in high school, it was stuff I never really understood... ergo, it must be great. Steinbeck's The Chrysanthemums was a story I recall from this time. What the hell was that all about? In my 20's and early 30's, Steinbeck's work became very important to me. But at 17, I was like, um... what? A side note: I was in advanced English because I always was a reader, and a half-decent writer. But as far as literature, I was a babe in the woods. Back then it was all about writers like P.K. Dick, or Silverberg, or anything with cool sci-fi weird settings (no unicorns and fairies please), or crime guys like Donald Westlake. So when I took a class in Contemporary Literature in college, and the first book on the course list was... wait for it... Slaughterhouse Five. Everything changed.

I can still easily picture where I was when I read that book, in one sitting, on the floor of a drawing studio (I was in art school). I haven't read it in years, but it launched a many-yeared obsession with everything Vonnegut wrote. All of sudden here was a guy writing about aliens (!) in a historical drama (the fire-bombing of Dresden), and speaking directly to the reader with his: Listen...

You mean you could write about that sort of stuff and it was still considered literature? Mind. Blown.

(Except we didn't talk in those declaratives at the time, separated with periods. We as a society came to that much later, and then jumped the shark when recently a certain Press Secretary started telling us stuff was a certain way. Period. And we all had a collective piss shiver. Period.)

I digress. Politically. Period.

And like Saunders, reading Vonnegut made me think about the language that I use in my own writing. This came much later, as I wrote some in college, but didn't start being serious about writing until my late 30's. And my Hemingway boner (Saunder's term) came later, after the Vonnegut one. 

When I think of my early attempts, when I wasn't trying to basically pay homage to Hem, I realized there was still the lingering thought that my sentences, my vocab, my syntax all needed a certain amount of complexity – fancy-ass talking if you will, nine-dollar words, and those sentences with a trap door – to be considered actual good writing. The big fat tag of LITERATURE.

George Saunders came along at a time when I was finally realized that those people I grew up with in my small Canadian city talked in a way that was very natural to my ear. For starters, I need to say that those people were me, are me, I am one of them, people, you know? A convoluted reminder to myself to stop distancing myself from that which is my natural upbringing. Just talk natural why dontcha?

There were other writers that showed me that direct, natural language was a road to great writing: Carver, Steinbeck, even Douglas Copeland (who whispered in my ear that it was ok to talk about the world we were experiencing right now.) Add to that the lyricism of Richard Ford, the strange mystery of Marquez, the complexity of DeLillo, and the wonder in great storytellers like Joe Lansdale and James Crumley... and, well, this part I can't quite articulate. But my own language became more natural, more fluid, and the challenge and beauty of some of that second set of writers, called me to make my own language even better. Most important was the harmony of the two.

Getting kinda esoteric here. Should probably add some fart noises, or something that brings this thing back to earth. But I should add that those first set of writers, were also lyrical and complex, but in a whole different way.

I'll end it there before I confuse both of us any further.

My new novel, Fall in One Day, more than anything else I've written has the voice and cadence of the language and people I grew up with. I am very pleased with that. It took quite a while to give myself permission to think that writing this way was okay. I have been called a "literary" writer. Even my forays into crime fiction are called, "literary." At times, I am awkwardly proud of this – the inner voice asking, really... do you think so? I don't have a PHd in medieval studies or anything. And this is just the stuff I heard around the hockey rink. Literary... ok, if you say so. (Fake blush).

But writing what is natural is both the simplest and most complex thing to do. I have now given myself permission to think that I can write the way I write, and some will call it literary (which is more a marketing term than anything).

My actual hope is that they will call it good.

Thursday
Jan262017

Go to the page grasshopper

Ok, warning, this post might get all Kung Fu mystic  – I'd say Zen, but I think there's already enough misunderstandings about Zen Buddhist principles out there... so let's stick with TV.
Sometimes writing craft is full of sayings that have the feel of Zen koan.

Show don't tell.

Find the conflict.

Release the hounds.

Ok, maybe not that last one. But can't you just see the master telling Caine to obey these principles. Snatch the misplaced modifier from my hand, grasshopper.

Figured I'd start with my digressions - get it out of the way. Okay, so what's the profundity here?

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the discipline of writing. I work full time at a University, so it can be hard to find the time to write – especially after a long day. So I decided a few years to, ugh, get up in the morning. I am not one of those savages who loves the early morning hours when all is asleep in the world or some poetic crap like that— no, it's as simple as, if I don't get up, no writing will happen that day.

At the end of a work day, and lots of other commitments (including a new love and discipline of learning Tai Chi), there's just not much juice in the tank. Sometimes I can edit, or think of story ideas, or write various correspondence. But for the actual words on the page, it's up at 6:00 AM, baby. And when I say baby, I mean, I'd rather stay in bed sleeping like one.

So bleary-eyed, I munch on the raisin toast and wait for the caffeine to kick in. I really don't know what will happen when I come to the page, but I have learned I have to keep returning to it.

Go to the page.

That's my mantra these days. Sometimes I go and the words just fly out of me. Sometimes they are like week- old gummies stuck on a sneaker and pried off with a dull butter knife. But I have to keep going to the page.

When things are happening, and maybe even when they are not, my subconscious kicks in. Those times it feel like I'm not really writing – I am just observing. I'm watching a character, seeing what he or she thinks, or much better, what they do. If I follow them long enough and they aren't doing anything, I'll throw something at them.... say, a flaming cat. That should get things going.

But sometimes, after multiple fiery felines, at least two of Chekhov's guns, an earthquake, and a roller skating vampire that sings show tunes... well, still nothing is happening. And then I have to call it a day, or a morning at least. Get ready for work, and leave the page. 

But in the morning, I gotta go back. Don't get me wrong, I am not some stoic where the discipline always wins. Yes, I believe I should write every day – I've seen how that changes things. It's what "real writers do". I put it in quotes because I was relieved to read that there are authors out there that don't believe in the whole write everyday thing. Breaks are taken. But the problem begins when the breaks become too often, and too long.

I remember Stephen King saying (I think in On Writing) that he feels you should be able to bang out a novel first draft in a few months, if you are disciplined (it also helps if you happen to be Stephen King). But it was his other comment about this process that struck me. To paraphrase, he said that if you take too long to write a first draft, or take long spaces in-between, all of your novel's characters start to feel like European relatives. You know they exist, they are out there, but they are distant, and you don't really know them.

You have to go to the page. Daily if possible. If not possible, do it anyway. (Zen cheerleading koan).

But why? Why do I have to do it? Well, you just never now what might spill out of that subconscious. I believe there is a certain fear in that blank page - I've seen it a lot in younger writers. And I think I used to have it. But when I decide to just face into it, and begin to write, no matter how crappy it is, something may come of it. Something usually does.

So grasshopper... wait, why is he called that? Do we ever know? Why did the master choose that name? Why couldn't he be "Ant" (more industrious), or "Beetle" (tough, hard shell, fun to step on) - or why bug at all? Why couldn't he be Skippy?

Because he wasn't. Sheesh. Now grasshopper, get your ass to the page.

Huh - I guess there was an explanation for the name. Have a look...

 

 

Page 1 ... 4 5 6 7 8 ... 96 Next 5 Entries »