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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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Tuesday
Feb272007

A brief woohoo

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This morning, I finished what may be the last story of my collection, working title: The Plate Spinner. The story, Ziggurat, feels like the sort of story that would be the last in a collection - maybe, it's the "Z" in the title, or the feeling that an end has come (the main character is reflecting on his father's funeral).

Presently, I am going through my "raw" material and seeing if I have enough to carve out my manuscript or if I need one more story.

So that part is a woohoo - going to the next stage in revision, I mean. The other woohoo is 3:AM is working on my story right now and it should be up soon, today, even.

Stay tuned.

Monday
Feb262007

The Best List

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I was an Oscar junkie before I knew what the word meant - "junkie", not oscar, those were wieners. I loved movies and everything about them. I spent whole afternoons at my library reading about Capra, Hitchcock and Ford. Yes, a kid reading film criticism is a bit weird, but hey, it was a small town, I had to do something.

I was probably a pain to go to the movies with. I remember the people sitting next to me were often "shushed" so I could hear the dialogue – this was at the Saturday matinee, playing such cinematic gems as "Pinocchio In Outer Space" (yes, that is a real movie - see the still above).

Oscar night was one of the few nights that I could stay up late - even until midnight, if needed, and it often was. For some reason, I remember them as being in April, but that must be some childhood fog. But I do recall vividly how I was mesmerized by the spectacle. A lot of the movies, I had never seen, actors and directors I had barely heard of – but would be researching at the library the next week. I remember watching the clips for Cabaret (what's that about, mom?) and seeing the streaker run past David Niven (what's THAT about, mom?).

I haven't missed an Oscar night in years. I now have a devoted group of movie lovers that come over to eat, laugh at the dresses, drink, yell at the screen, and eat some more. We have the ballots and everyone throws a toonie in the pot - yours truly has faired well over the years, gaining some coffee money for the week. Alas, last night was a bust, my crystal ball was way off and I had to be satisfied with the fact that one of my favorite actors of all time (Alan Arkin) won, against the odds. Hell, I didn't even put his name on the ballot – but I was still happy.

This being a blog about fiction, I finally reach my point about storytelling. I have become increasingly aware that my favorite film of the year walks away with one of the screenplay awards, usually the Best Original Screen-play. When I am watching a movie that I love, I can almost sense it, this is such damn fine writing, it HAS to win screenplay. And quite often, it does. Looking at the list of screenplay winners over the years, it's like a list of my favorite films.

Starting with Citizen Kane (1941), then On the Waterfront (1954), The Apartment (1960), The Producers (1968), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), Midnight Cowboy (1969 - adapted) Patton (1970 - written by Francis Ford Coppola!), MASH (1970 adapted). When it hits the 70's, that is when I really notice - The French Connection (1971 - adapted)), The Godfather (1972 and Part Two in 1974 adapted), The Candidate (1972), The Sting (1973), Chinatown (1974), Dog Day Afternoon (1975), One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest (1975 - adapted), All the President's Men (1976 - adapted).

 
The 70's were called the Second Golden age in American Film making for a reason. As the studios rose in power and the blockbuster emerged (curse you George Lucas and Spielberg), the 80's tanked. I looked over the winners and shook my head. Maybe Melvin and Howard (1980) and a couple of others, but mostly the well written movie went in the toilet.

The 90's started out bad, I mean Ghost (1990)! That piece of crap with Demi Moore and Mr.Dirty Dancing himself? Oh please, could we just have someone original appear, anyone, someone....

Then a ray of hope - Pulp Fiction (1994) - thank-you Mr. Tarentino. Then, the Usual Suspects (1995) and even better Fargo (1996) -thank-you Mr. and Mrs. Cohen for your brilliant sons. Then in quick succession L.A. Confidential (1997 - adapted from the amazing James Ellroy), Shakespeare in Love (1998) and American Beauty (1999) - I am like, whoa, check your decade clock! Is this another golden age?

I haven't checked the data, but in my head the other trend that emerged was that the best written picture did not translate to the Best Picture award. That award seemed to be based on some other criteria, possibly signals sent from another planet (Titanic anyone?). But that's okay, I knew which category mattered.

Almost Famous (2000), Gosford Park (2001), Lost in Translation (2003), Lord of the Rings (2003 - adapted - showing that blockbusters can also be well written. Though, it helps when you have Tolkien as source material) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), Sideways (2004 Adapted) and last night, my favorite movie of the year, the one I knew would not win Best Picture (but secretly hoped), Little Miss Sunshine (2006). I remember watching it and remarking to me son, best written thing I have seen this year, gotta win screenplay.

Until next year. 

Friday
Feb232007

Prairie Ziggurat

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I have been working on a story called, "Ziggurat" for my collection. The image of the ancient Ziggurat bubbled out of my head as I pictured the prairie version of this stone structure. Shown above, though faraway, is an inland terminal. These concrete monsters rose above the flat landscape, replacing the wooden grain elevators that used to loom overhead - though, "loom" isn't quite right for the elevators. They were beautiful buildings, sometimes painted in deep oranges or reds, or soft blues. They looked like they were built by people and had a charm to them. I remember one night when one burned to the ground - the spectacle drew people out of their homes and into the street. More than a few eyes were wet, as we knew the building would not be replaced.

I say "were" because grain elevators are disappearing - I had this idea once to get in a van and go on a art and photography tour of those still standing. I went on a mini-one a few years back, stopping at every small town along a 200 mile stretch and taking photos of the elevators. Maybe I will go on a longer one before it is too late.

Inland terminals loom - these concrete goliaths rise out of the sky and cast long shadows. They are cold, stiff structures that do not sway in the wind. They look like they were built for the gods and maybe by gods, heartless gods.

From my story, "Ziggurat"
The sky is devoid of any clouds and the wind doesn't cool you down, it just blows like hell and pushes the heat around. I’m in a dark navy Arrow shirt, black dress pants, and a black tie that threatens to choke me. Behind me, an inland grain terminal rises out the landscape like a Ziggurat without the steps. The shadow it casts makes me, just for a moment, understand idol worship.

The word popped into my head while I was writing - I had not thought of the comparison before, hadn't thought of the word, "Ziggurat" for years, back in Grade Nine history of ancient civilizations maybe.

Looking at the pictures above, I see why the image appeared.

Wednesday
Feb212007

Flaming noggin writing

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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 3:AM – I'll post it again when the story appears.

Monday
Feb192007

Eerie Winston

eerie.jpgDear Amazon.ca Customer,

We've noticed that customers who have expressed interest in Eerie Indiana: The Complete Series have also ordered Sir Winston Churchill: War Years on DVD.

Well, who freakin' knew? You cynics out there might think that Amazon is just doing there own bizarre form of marketing here... but maybe they are onto something. Taking two totally disparate items and placing them next to each other in some salesworthy juxtaposition, well isn't that what I try to do when I write fiction?

I take a character, normal guy doing normal things, and put him next to something that is not so normal. Like in the Amazon pitch - take Eerie Indiana, a short lived, but brilliant, TV series that could be described as a teen slanted Twilight Zone (I think it got canned simply because it was ahead of its time), and pair that up with the cigar chewing, top hat wearing, slim challenged and brilliant English leader and you can see the connection?
Can't you?
No, neither can I.

In my short story Prophet, first published in Thirst for Fire and re-printed in the South African Journal, Laugh It Off, I imagine a normal guy, a veteran maybe, sitting in his legion and spouting his bar prophecy.

"It’s gonna thunder, it’s gonna rain, we’re gonna get hit and the queen’s gonna talk."

I like playing with this odd juxtaposition. We are used to folks predicting the weather, but against this I throw in the prediction that the monarch might have something to say.

The way the words tumble out of the guy’s mouth, I can’t tell if he's drunk or some kind of barroom wizard. He holds up a shaky finger and points at the yellowed portrait of Elizabeth that hangs, tilted, against the dark paneled wall. I look up from my pool cue and give the guy a look.

I guess I am saying that it is this juxtaposition than give stories interest, a reason for reading them. We want strange things to happen, not necessarily mystical, but we do want something, anything, to happen.
Amazon has glommed onto this idea and I should send them a thank-you note for emailing me story ideas.

Complete text of Prophet at Thirst For Fire.
More about Eerie, Indiana - you're on your own with Churchill
I am guest blogger today over at the Canadian Writers Collective - they are waxing eloquent about LOVE this February.