Archive for the ‘Terry Fallis’ Category

Cover reveal for Albatross

Sunday, April 28th, 2019

As promised, here is the cover design for my seventh novel, Albatross, to be released on August 13th. The goal of any cover is to reach out from bookstore shelves, grab readers by the lapels as they walk past, and force them to take a closer look. I think this cover scores very well on the old “eye-catching” meter. Breaking up the word Albatross using the hyphen is unusual and I hope makes the cover a little more arresting than if the word had been displayed in the usual fashion.

As for symbolism, the cover leans on the “gilded cage” metaphor. My narrator, Adam Coryell, is blessed or cursed, depending on your perspective, with unmatched natural ability at golf. This grants him fame and fortune beyond any sane person’s wildest imagination. Yet he is not happy in his life. Not to put too fine a point on it, Adam’s golf prowess “imprisons” him in a gilded cage. The novel tells the story of how he found himself in the cage, and how he escaped.

I’m very happy with the cover, though I know it will not appeal to everyone. Here’s hoping it does its job and catches bookstore browsers’ eyes starting in mid-August. My thanks to my editor, Bhavna Chauhan, and the design team at McClelland & Stewart (Penguin Random House) for coming up with this. It was not a straightforward design challenge.

Albatross Final Cover

 

The new title of my seventh novel is: Albatross

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019

A few weeks back, I promised to unveil the new title for my seventh novel, due in bookstores on August 13. The original title I’d come up with was If at First You Succeed. I liked the wry little twist on this common phrase. But it is a mouthful. My editor, the wonderful Bhavna Chauhan at McClelland & Stewart (Penguin Random House) and I agreed that it was worth considering some other title options that were a little pithier and punchier. I’ve always liked titles that have at least two different meanings, even if the reader doesn’t understand the second meaning until later in the novel. One Brother Shy and Poles Apart are two examples of titles of mine that, I hope, take on additional meaning for the reader as the story unfolds.

So with all of this in mind, the title for my new novel is Albatross. Without giving too much away, this word has strong connections to the story but in two different contexts. This is not a novel about golf, but the game does play into the story. In golf parlance, an albatross is that rare and wonderful event when a player shoots three below par on a hole. In other words, if a golfer holes her second shot on a Par 5, she would be said to have scored an “albatross.” I’ve scored many birdies (one below par on a hole) in my less-than-stellar golfing career, and one lonely eagle (two below par on a hole). But I have never come close to landing the elusive albatross. So in one sense, the word albatross reflects the rare talent for golf that the narrator in my novel possesses.

albatross on scorecard

But there is a completely different meaning for the word albatross (I mean beyond the literal sea bird definition). Back in 1798, the English poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote a very long poem called The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. In the poem, an albatross seems to bring good weather and favourable winds to a ship that was threatened by the ice of a winter storm. When a sailor shoots the albatross with a crossbow, the ship’s fortunes change for the worse. For his crime, the sailor is forced to hang the dead albatross around his neck as punishment.

albatross-around-your-neck

This second meaning of the word albatross – the bearing of guilt or a burden – becomes a powerful reflection of the narrator’s life when his golfing prowess becomes a burden or the albatross around his neck.

When I suggested the alternative title, my editor, and according to the legend, everyone else at Penguin Random House, thought it was short, punchy, clever, and perfect. Who am I to argue?

So when the novel hits bookstores in August, the title will simply be Albatross.

I should soon be able to share the cover design, but not quite yet. Stay tuned!

A new title for novel #7 is coming soon…

Tuesday, March 12th, 2019

Screen Shot 2019-03-12 at 5.32.57 PM

Just wanted to let you know that shortly I’ll be unveiling a new title for my seventh novel, due out in mid-August. My editor at McClelland & Stewart and I just decided that there was a better and more meaningful title, though I like the sentiment captured in the original. It shouldn’t be too much longer before all will be revealed. I may even be able to release the cover design at the same time. Stand by…

Editing If at First You Succeed

Tuesday, November 6th, 2018

blue pencil

I’ve been working closely with my editor at McClelland & Stewart, Bhavna Chauhan, to edit the manuscript for my seventh novel, tentatively known as If at First You Succeed. It’s been tough slogging but the novel is much better now than it was before this editing stage. I should have the revised manuscript back to her in the next few weeks, and we’ll see how she likes it. I’m enjoying the process and we’re both staying focused on making this the best book it can be. We’re still on track to be published in August 2019. Stay tuned.

If at First You Succeed is finished

Tuesday, August 7th, 2018


Ball in hole

It’s always exciting to finish the manuscript for my next novel. It’s such a journey to cook up an idea, create the characters, map out the story, and then write the novel. There is a moment of sheer relief when you type the words “The End.” I say “a moment of sheer of relief” because the journey isn’t nearly over yet. My twin brother Tim is almost always an early reader (along with my wife, Nancy), and he’s already nearly finished it. As usual, he’s had some sound editorial suggestions, most of which I’ve already executed. But still, there is a certain satisfaction at making it this far.

You’d think on my seventh novel that it might be getting easier. But I’m hard-pressed to say this novel was any less challenging than the six that preceded it. In fact, I encountered a rough patch on this novel that I’ve never experienced before. When I’d written the first half of this manuscript, I read it over before digging in to write the second half. For the first time in my writing life, I just wasn’t satisfied with what I’d written. It just didn’t feel quite right. I wasn’t happy with it.

So after thinking long and hard about the story, I made some changes. I performed some surgery on the first half that may have lengthened the novel a tad, but I hope also makes it a faster read. Seems like a contradiction, but it’s not. After recovering from this surgery, I barrelled ahead with the second half and finished it last week. I’ve now gone through the entire manuscript one more time, fixed some small things, and made the solid edits my twin bro proposed.

Now it’s off to my editor at McClelland & Stewart, Bhavna Chauhan, and the editorial process begins afresh. I’m sure she’ll have some helpful suggestions at various levels of the story that will make this a better novel. But, we’re getting closer. This post is just my way of pausing for a moment, and feeling good about finishing the manuscript, at least for the first time. I’m sure I’ll be “finishing the manuscript” a couple more times before it’s well and truly ready for your favourite bookstore. As far as I know, we’re on track for its release in August 2019. Seems so far away.

Onwards…

manuscript

We have lift-off on my seventh novel

Friday, May 4th, 2018

Blogpost photo

I’ve been remiss by waiting so long to post about the state of my seventh novel, If at First You Succeed. Actually, being remiss is kind of a perpetual state of being for me these days. It’s a busy time. But the good news is, I’m deep into writing the manuscript for my seventh novel. I’ve been working on it reasonably steadily since February. If at First You Succeed is now about half-written. I’m up over 50,000 words. So far so good (I think). The novel deals with a central issue in most of our lives. It’s about finding happiness and fulfillment and doing what our heart tell us to do, even if the head has other ideas. I think it’s an issue many struggle with, particularly as it relates to our careers. People often simply fall into their first job and discover that they’re actually pretty good at it. By all of the standard measures of success, they’re doing very well. They get promoted. They get raises. They’re headhunted by other companies. And before they know it, fifteen or twenty years have passed and they’re well entrenched in what seems to have become their career.

Here’s the tricky part, even though they’re very good at their job (or in the case of my narrator, the very best in the world), they don’t wake up on a Monday morning entranced by the idea of going to work for another week. So this is a funny (I hope) novel that wrestles with the idea that even though you may be very good at what you do, maybe even the best, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s what you’re meant to do.

The current thinking of my publisher, McClelland & Stewart, is that it will hit bookstores in the late summer or early fall of 2019. And yes, there is a reason for the golf ball graphic. Now I must get back at it…

Eleven years later…

Monday, January 8th, 2018

2017-2018 change represents the new year 2018, three-dimensional rendering, 3D illustration

Yes, I know, I’m a little tardy with my annual end-of-year post counting my blessings over the preceding twelve months. I have no excuse. There are just as many blessings to enumerate, but the holiday break ended up being just that, a break. For some reason I could not muster the wherewithal to sit down at my computer. (Given that my last post on this humble blog was in August, you may wonder just how long my “break” was.) Anyway, I made similar “progress” on my seventh novel, If at First You Succeed. Bu I’m pleased to report that my sedentary ways are behind me and I am emerging from the holiday haze!

So, a few days behind, let me reminisce about what a happy year 2017 was as part of celebrating the eleventh anniversary of this blog:

  • Part of January 2016 was dedicated to persuading other writers I know and respect to read the manuscript for One Brother Shy, and offer their old pal Terry a positive blurb for the then new novel. I was thrilled when Joe Kertes, Gary Barwin, Susan Juby, and Steve Patterson all kindly agreed. No money changed hands. You can find their lovely comments gracing the back cover of One Brother Shy.
  • I taught my eight-week Humour Writing course early in the year for the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies Creative Writing program. Always fun.
  • In February we lost Canadian treasure and three-time Leacock Medalist Stuart McLean. We weren’t ready. When my first novel won the 2008 Leacock Medal, in my impromptu acceptance remarks, I thanked Stuart’s two main characters from his classic Vinyl Cafe stories, Dave and Morley, for having a particularly quiet and uneventful year. I did that because I suspected that had Stuart released a new collections of stories that year, I would not have won. I was interviewed for the CBC story when news of Stuart’s passing broke.
  • I gave 83 book talks in 2017, down somewhat from my high-water mark of 142 a few years ago. But it was wonderful to visit parts of my city, province, and country I don’t get to very often. Highlights would include a ten day tour of the Gulf Islands off the coast of BC in April, a lecture to the Hamilton Association of the Advancement of Literature, Science and Art, a “Google Talk” at Google’s Canadian headquarters, a keynote address at the Women in Nuclear conference, along with festival appearances in Gananoque, Wakefield, River John (Nova Scotia), Eden Mills, Lunenburg, Westport, Whistler, Stratford and Toronto (IFOA). I even Skyped in to a book club in Kinshaha in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • In July I was thrilled to be invited to join the faculty of the famed Iceland Writers Retreat running for a week this coming April. I’ve always wanted to visit Iceland.
  • In November, I spoke at the launch of the One Brother Shy Daisy audio version for the CNIB. It was such a wonderful hosted at The Hub, a CNIB community “hub” in Toronto.
  • I added to my writing obligations in 2017 when I became the humour columnist for Legion Magazine as well as a columnist for Leaside Life magazine. Both of these will continue in 2018.
  • In November, I spent a week sequestered in a hotel in Collingwood working on my seventh novel, If at First You Succeed. I’ve finished my chapter-by-chapter outline and have just started the manuscript. McClelland & Stewart expects to release the novel in the spring of 2019.

So it was an eventful and wonderful year in my writerly life.

Looking ahead, I’ll be doing more traveling in 2018 with writing-related trips already planned for Iceland, Yellowknife, and Woody Point (Newfoundland), with a few dozen appearances already booked. As well, I should have my seventh novel, If at First You Succeed, finished by the summer. I’m about to start teaching my eight-week Humour Writing course again for the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies Creative Writing program. So life is full and good, and I couldn’t be happier. Onwards!

 

My Maclean’s piece about Trump’s demise

Monday, August 28th, 2017

The folks at Maclean’s asked a few writers to speculate on how the Trump presidency might end. Here’s what I came up with.

Mcleans headline

A two-time winner of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, Terry Fallis is the award-winning author of six national bestsellers, including his latest novel, One Brother Shy, all published by McClelland & Stewart.

It’s really not part of my job description, but no one else will do it. And there is a certain logic to it, I guess, given that I’m the one closest to him—physically, I mean. But I should earn even more danger pay than I already get for this little add-on to my duties.

“Mr. President,” I whisper to the massive lump lying alone in a massive bed. His snoring sounds a lot like an industrial wood-chipper, or three. “Mr. President, it’s time to get up.”

“Whaaaaadaaaaayishit?”

“I’m sorry, Mr. President, I didn’t quite get all of… um… any of that.”

He rolled over in the dimness—the light in the room, I mean—and I saw poking from beneath the sheets a whoosh of golden hair that looked like the Statue of Liberty’s torch, only brighter.

“What day ish it?”

“It’s Thursday, Mr. President.”

“No, no. You know what I mean,” he croaked.

“Oh right, sorry Mr. President,” I replied as I carefully calculated the right response in my head. “Um, Mr. President, it’s Day 547, I mean, 547 of 1,460. So that leaves, um, 913 to go.”

A small orangey fist emerged from the sheets and hammered the mattress four or five times accompanied by a noise that I wouldn’t have believed was created by a human had I not been standing right next to him.

“Aaaarrrrrhhllooooooooowshhhh!”

“It’ll go quickly, sir,” I soothed, as I’d been instructed to by his fourth Chief of Staff. “But you really should get up. You’ve got a 10 a.m.”

He pulled down the sheets, mercifully to just below his chin. His hair went madly off in all directions but I could see his shining eyes and a look of hope flashed on his face like a pulsing neon restaurant sign.

“Is it golf? Is it a 10 a.m. tee time?”

“Um, no sir. Sorry. I really wish it were, but you’ve got a meeting in the Oval with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

“Frickelangeloooo! I hate those guys. I just can’t. I won’t. It’s too much. That’s it. It’s over. My schedule is friggin’ HUGE. It’s crazy! Yesterday, there was a meeting booked for 9 in the morning. Nine! It’s a disaster! You can’t tell me that Obama started his day at 9 friggin’ o’clock.”

“Um, Mr. President, 9 is kind of early. but it isn’t really that early. Most people, well at least some people, are at their jobs by 9.”

“More fake news. You’ve been brainwashed. It’s still friggin’ dark at 9. Maybe I could golf at that hour, maybe, but working like a job, uh-uh, forget about it,” he sighed. “Geez, I haven’t worked this hard since…”

I waited as he studied the ceiling.

Still, I waited.

“Mr. President?”

“Shhhh! Hang on, I’m thinking,” he said holding up his hand and scrunching up his face. “Hmmm, I guess I’ve never worked this hard. And it’s gotta stop. Now.”

“Yes sir.”

“What’s your name again?”

“Austin, sir. Trevor Austin.”

“Are you my butler or something?” he asked.

“No sir. You fired him four weeks ago,” I replied. “I’m Secret Service, on your personal detail.”

“Well, you’re fired,” he said. “Wait, Secret Service? To protect me?”

“Yes sir.”

“Okay, you can stay.”

“Thank you, sir,” I sighed. “So what do I tell the Joint Chiefs of Staff? I don’t think you can quite get there for 10 o’clock.”

“Tell them to ‘make breakfast great again,’ have an Egg McMuffin, and I’ll see them at noon, maybe.”

“Sorry sir, but the schedule says you’ve got a call with President Putin at noon.”

“The Vlad-man! He’s a good guy. A little short. But a good guy. And he agrees with me that Transformers should not be in the military.”

“Sorry, sir?”

“My announcement last year that Transformers can no longer serve in the U.S. military,” he explained. “Oh yeah, and neither can Alec Baldwin or Melissa McWhat’s-her-head.”

“Mr. President, I think you may mean transgender, not transformers.”

“Whatever. I was watching the new Transformers movie last night on my Presidential iPad. Beautiful flick. Loved it. You seen it?”

“No, sir,” I replied. “Um, sir, what about the Joint Chiefs?”

“Cancel it and tell…Mike…you know…my VP, to see me. I’ll be right here thinking about stuff. Great stuff. Beautiful stuff.”

“Yes sir.”

“Hey, before you go, can you show me your gun again?”

I pulled it out and held it up so he could see it, again.

“Can I hold it?” he asked, “Pleeeeease.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. President, I’m not permitted to surrender my firearm to anyone,” I explained. “It’s for your own protection.”

He nodded.

“Yeah, okay. I get that.”

___________________

The Joint Chiefs weren’t happy. And Mike Pence was in for the shock of his life, even though the President had severely depleted his VP’s capacity for shock. Mike Pence already felt shocked out. But he wasn’t. Not quite.

When I slipped back into the presidential bedroom, or what we in the Secret Service call the POTUS Pad, the President was sitting up in bed wearing a fluffy terrycloth robe with the Presidential seal on one side and the Trump corporate logo on the other. He was leafing through Sports Illustrated. It was the same issue he’d been “reading” for several weeks already, the annual swimsuit edition.

“Ivanka could totally be in here. No problem. Done deal,” he said, waving around the magazine.

“Yes sir,” I replied. “Mr. President, Vice President Pence is here.”

“Fan-friggin-tastic. It’s about time. Send him in and maybe get me some kind of breakfast sandwich with sausage and cheese. Lots of cheese.”

I headed to the White House kitchen as the Vice President slipped into the room.

“Hi Mike,” I heard the President say. “Buckle your seatbelt.”

_____________________

Three days later, you can see me on television, standing behind and to the left of the President, as he and Vice-President Pence stood at the lectern in the Rose Garden. My darting eyes shielded by sunglasses, I surveyed the gobsmacked faces of the press corps. There was no teleprompter and no speaking notes. Never a good sign.

“My fellow Americans, I took office 18 months ago when America was in serious trouble. It was a disaster. Since then so much beautiful stuff has happened, and all of it good for the country. I promised to win the election against that mean woman, Hillary Clinton, and I did. I promised to repeal and replace ObamaCare, and well, we were almost there before John McCain and those two witches killed it. But that’s not my fault. I promised to create more jobs in this country, and just look how many different people have worked on my staff since then. Lots of jobs. The best jobs. I’ve stood up for America on the world stage. All the other leaders love me even more than that Justin Trudel guy. It’s fantastic. I promised to make America great again, and I have.

“So my job is done here. I changed America and it’sgoing to continue to change. And I did it in a year and a half. So I want to give someone else the chance to ride this wave now that I’ve done the heavy lifting. So I’m stepping down as of, well as of right now, and my trusted Vice President, Mike Spence…”

“Pence!” the Vice President hissed from the corner of his smiling mouth just loudly enough for everyone in the Rose Garden to hear, and several who weren’t.

“Pence, Mike Pence, will take over as President according to the Constitution of the United States. So, over to you, Mike. Don’t you mess up all the good work I’ve done. Get that wall built. And give my best to the Boy Scouts because I won’t be speaking at their big jumbalay thingy this year, you will be. And they love me. They really do. You should have seen them last year. It was beautiful. Okay folks, write whatever the hell you want, I am out of here as soon as Marine One is warmed up.

“God bless America and God bless me.”

Toronto Star Reviews One Brother Shy

Monday, July 24th, 2017

Note: Several plot spoilers in this review 

TorStar logo

Twins reunite in quest to find father in One Brother Shy

In One Brother Shy by Terry Fallis, the search for family is also a tale of self-discovery.

Aficionados of novelist Terry Fallis’s fiction could be forgiven for thinking his new novel, One Brother Shy, might be the kind of comic turn that has earned him two Stephen Leacock Medals for Humour. But they’d be wrong. Although one central character’s somewhat chippy personality has its amusing moments, the book is more psychological whodunit than side-splitting farce. The book is also something of an ode to one of the most unique emotional bonds a human can experience — the ineffable connection shared by identical twins.

But at the narrative’s outset, the shy, diffident and, yes, chippy Ottawa-based Alex MacAskill has no idea he was separated at birth from his much more sophisticated London-based twin brother Matt Paterson. Resolving the mystery of their separation and discovering the father they never knew keeps the novel humping along at a breakneck pace.

The action begins with the death of Alex’s mother and two pictures she leaves behind as a mysterious legacy. One of them shows a man, seen only from the shoulders down, cradling two newborns in his arms. The pictures contain a clue that would be critical to tracking him down: an odd tattoo on the left arm. But Alex initially has more pressing business: finding his twin who’s out there — somewhere.

Alex possesses a useful skill to aid and abet his sleuthing. A brilliant code writer, he’s developing state-of-the-art facial-recognition software, so faster than a speeding hard drive, Alex quickly discovers his bro is a successful tech entrepreneur in London and seemingly his polar opposite, emotionally, psychologically and experientially. Or is he?

A compelling subplot in One Brother Shy is the impact of a humiliating trauma Alex experienced as a 15-year-old aspiring high-school actor. After spiking his Coke with a Viagra-like pill, two bullies lower a dazed, naked — and tumescent — Alex onto the stage of his high-school Christmas pageant and the ensuing video — “ARCHangel” — became the Internet’s first viral sensation. Humiliated, Alex retreats from life, going emotionally AWOL for the next decade, until he meets his twin.

Once reunited, the twins go in search of their father, an odyssey that takes them to Putin’s Moscow with its vestiges of Soviet-era spooks and memories of the 1972 U.S.S.R.-Canada hockey series. Eventually, they succeed in finding their dad, but that is not the book’s emotional crescendo, IMO. That transpires when shy, taciturn Alex, the one-time aspiring actor, rediscovers himself by “playing” his brother, sidelined by laryngitis just before a make-or-break corporate dog-and-pony show. But had his twin tricked him into undergoing an emotional catharsis? Alex, confrontationally: “You never lost your voice, did you?” Matt, cryptically: “I lost mine, you found yours.” Now that’s identical twin love.

One Brother Shy is a charming, affecting book with perhaps one little caveat: Fallis’s tendency to tie up all plot lines with the precision of a daytime soap. A small quibble, perhaps.

Robert Collison is a Toronto writer and editor.

Iceland Writers Retreat next April!

Tuesday, July 4th, 2017

Logo-IWR

What a thrill to be invited to serve on the faculty of the 2018 Iceland Writers Retreat next April. I’ve known other writers who have attended this wonderful and respected retreat and they rave about it and the country. I have wanted to visit this special place for many years now, not just because of the very distinct literary strand that runs through the Icelandic culture, but also because of the 1972 World Chess Championships in Reykjavik, when Bobby Fischer Defeated Boris Spassky (yes, I’m a bit of a chess nerd, though you’d never guess from my play). I’ll be leading two workshops, sitting on a panel, giving a couple of readings, and doing anything and everything I’m asked to do, beaming all the way.
 
The stellar faculty for the 2018 retreat includes famed novelist Allice Hoffman, Pulitzer Prize winner Hilton Als, New York Times Book Review editor Pamela Paul (who I listen to each week on the Book Review podcast), two decorated Icelandic writers, and others. Registration is now open for the retreat. Why not consider joining us?
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