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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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Friday
Feb162007

The voice in my head

ear.jpg A very early memory of mine is my mother reading to me from The Arabian Nights. I can barely recall the stories, but I can still see the book – an thick ornate volume full of exotic pictures, deep oranges and wild patterns, kids on elephants, and sultans with big hats. Better though, I remember the sensation of being read to. I still love it, and I love to read aloud. In adulthood this love grew into a love for good radio and sometimes audiobooks, if they are well done.

I recently found a CD set of the Best American Stories of 2002, edited by Sue Miller. Richard Ford reads his story, "Puppy" on it. It is the first time I had heard Ford's voice, it seemed to match his writing, just a bit of twang, eloquent but never pretentious, stripped down even, like his writing. There is also a Michael Chabon story, "Along the Frontage Road", this one read by an actor. The thing is, that voice for me is now Chabon's, I guess until I actually hear Chabon read. This happened with a favorite audio collection I own, American Classics, stories by Updike, Carver and Cheever. I have listened to them repeatedly. I love hearing Updike read his classic, "A and P" - one of my favorite shorts of all time. There is an actor reading Carver's stories, but I can't remember his name. It doesn't matter, because for me it is Carver. The guy they got so matched Carver's tone of writing that I couldn't imagine it being anyone else.

I am thinking of audio stories this morning because I just finished listening to this month's issue of Bound Off. It is a monthly literary audio magazine of the highest quality. I am not just saying this because they have accepted a couple of my stories (but hey, that makes me like them even more). This month's podcast has a chilling story written by Vincent Louis Carrella, "The Killing of Clyde" - the language is gorgeous, a mix of southern gothic and Texas twang. Best of all, it is read by the author, who has a great voice.
Check it out. It's the first story in the podcast.

In the fiction section I have links to my Bound Off recordings. Listen to them, then you'll have my voice in your head – and I think that's a good thing. Though, to be honest, I look forward to having someone else read my fiction aloud, just to see what kind of cadence they bring to it.
Happy listening.

Wednesday
Feb142007

I love you - but in a micro sort of way.

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Fast Exit

Kiss me with both lips on your way out the door, on a bus to Texas and when you get there make sure you don't write. Damn sure.

The Brooklyn, New York writer Jennifer Prado asked for tales of love for her Valentine Day posting at her blog, EMERGE. The catch: they could only be 30 words long.

I don't usually dabble in this micro-fiction, but it was a slow afternoon and I enjoyed the challenge. Trying to compose some sort of narrative (or a snapshot of a narrative) in so few words feels akin to doing a good crossword puzzle. I say a "good" puzzle because it is satisfying when you finish, all the squares are filled, and a certain degree of head scratching was involved. I hate the really easy ones.

Writing micro-fiction forces you to take all the things you know about character, plot, story arc, and crunch them down into a few words - but it's different than poetry. I think there still has to be some semblance of story.

In my tale (shown above), I crunched down the passion of a deep kiss early in a relationship, to the eventual breakdown (out the door), and complete collapse (bus to Texas) to resolution and moving on, but maybe with a hint of anger (damn sure).

Maybe a bit edgy for this Hallmark holiday of love, but well, there you go.

For more micro-love tales visit Jennifer's blog: EMERGE - New Authors

Tuesday
Feb132007

The Big Crystal

seed.jpg "The way I usually work is to try and find some little thing — a concept or a bit of dialogue or whatever — and then let a story grow from there, with as little preconception as possible."

The above is from an interview with George Saunders, another influence/inspiration of mine. I have come to realize that the authors I admire know a lot about the craft of writing - maybe this is obvious, but when I read interviews with these writers I am always blown away by the attention to craft and detail. Usually, right after this I give myself a stern talking too, "gotta dig deeper, better sentences, better structure, better everything."

Saunders has been called the new Vonnegut, but he is much more. His stories rings with satire, emotional depth, and sometimes pure wackiness. After I read Pastoralia, I tried to find out as much as I could of this guy, who seemed to appear out of nowhere and boom! And by boom I mean, every (EVERY!) story in Pastoralia was published first in the New Yorker. Nice work if you can get it.

The much more is that emotional depth and resonance - Vonnegut had it too, but in a different way. I wondered, did he start out thinking the theme of the following story is going to be....(insert observation of the human condition here).....
In the mentioned interview he talks about this, how stories grow in the writing. He uses this beautiful metaphor:
__
"So my favorite metaphor for the thing you’re talking about is the seed-crystal metaphor. Like in high school biology: you put the thing in water and it starts growing. The key, for me, is that the crystal is not trying to grow in a certain direction, or to make a certain pattern, or because it wants to be a certain kind of Big Crystal when it’s done. It is, I suppose, following some sort of path of least resistance. That is what it feels like, in the best case. I am not trying to do anything in particular, except stumble on something."__

This interview nailed exactly what I had been thinking about (I read it about a year ago). You start with story, not theme, and see where it goes, or better, where it grows. A good friend had been telling me this for quite a while. I'd hear it and go, "yeah, yeah, but you gotta start with somethin important." I can be a slow learner.

The concept is a very freeing one - put the thing in water and see what happens. Write a sentence that starts:
William lifted the lid on the strange container at the exact moment that his wife collapsed in the room next door.

Not a great sentence, but I wonder what I might stumble across.

Link to George Saunders (2005) interview at Maud Newton's blog.

Boston Review of Pastoralia

Monday
Feb122007

Poutine eating pacifists

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The great thing about my bookclub is that no one is afraid to share their opinion - even saying "share" is couching it a bit. It's more like tearing a piece off the raw meat we have thrown in the centre of the room.
This weekend the battlelines were drawn on Gaiman's, American Gods. One guest actually did throw the book down on the floor to visually punctuate his opinion. Like a freshly killed rabbit, the pack jumped on it. You get the idea that this is not your aunt's bookclub.

At the end of the night, I had a new appreciation for what Gaiman was trying to do (even if we couldn't agree what he was trying to do). The talk swung from themes of ancient Gods and people's belief in them, to an outsider's view of America as a nihilistic place, where the media and internet rule. It was a charged night as it touched on some things that seem to bubble out of a lot of our meetings – American manifest destiny for one. Maybe we are obsessed with that in our faux-innocent Northern neighbour position. Gaiman certainly draws the parallel to the God's need for blood to survive and the need for blood sacrifice, like war, in the American psyche. I say faux-innocent, because I think Canadians can get a little smug, thinking we are a bunch of poutine eating, toque wearing pacifist hosers that are nothing like our southern neighbours. I've met folks on both side of the border that prove this stereotype wrong.

The good thing is that I introduced the club to Gaiman and I think he gained a few new fans - and a few that wonder what the hell that was all about. Fiction, often good fiction, can be divisive that way. One person's brilliance can be another one's floor sweepings.

Get a quart of oil and make your own poutine.

Friday
Feb092007

It's better in a FORD

odin.ford.jpg Tonight, 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.