Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

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.”

Iceland Writers Retreat next April!

Tuesday, July 4th, 2017

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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?
reykjavik_cnt_18nov09_iStock_b_1

Ten years later…

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

2016-a

Early January is traditionally when I take a reflective look back across the preceding year and give thanks for all the good fortune that still seems to be trailing me around in my now ten year old life as a novelist. I do find it hard to believe that a decade has elapsed since I started this blog and began podcasting my first novel, The Best Laid Plans. A decade! If you’d told me back in 2007 that ten years later McClelland & Stewart would be publishing my sixth novel, One Brother Shy, I’d at least have scoffed if not collapsed in hysterics. Yet here we are.

2016 was another eventful year in my writerly life:

  • I slowed down a bit more on the readings, signings, and talks front. I logged 75 appearances, down from over a hundred in 2015. This wasn’t really a conscious decrease, but just seemed to work out that way. (It’s of course possible that people are growing tired of me.) However, I did seem to travel to a few more exotic locales including visits to Whitehorse, Galiano and Pender Islands, Cape Breton Island, and, of all places, the United Arab Emirates.
  • November was an unprecedented month of travel for me, though only one stint of the voyage was book-related. I happily spent time in New York, Orlando, Paris, and the aforementioned United Arab Emirates. I was in UAE for the Sharjah International Book Fair. I spoke at the American University of Sharjah and then, likely for the one and only time in my life, sat on a panel at the book fair where the language was Arabic and I was given headphones for simultaneous translation. It was a fascinating experience.

I think that about wraps up the highlights of another busy year. I’m hard at work planning my seventh novel as we head into 2017 and hope to be writing the manuscript by the time One Brother Shy is released in May. In March, I’ll be starting to podcast One Brother Shy, chapter-by-chapter, as is my practice. It’ll be available as a free download on iTunes and this blog. I also have some travel coming up later in the spring with a seven day reading tour of the Gulf Islands off BC’s west coast. I’ll also likely be teaching my Humour Writing course at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies starting later this month.

Happy New Year!

On sale date advanced for One Brother Shy

Monday, November 28th, 2016

on-sale-date-graphic

I’m pleased to report that the powers that be at McClelland & Stewart have advanced the publication date for One Brother Shy from June 20th to May 30th. Yay! The earlier the better.

 

The cover art for One Brother Shy

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

One Brother Shy cover (lower res)

Well here it is, the cover art for my sixth novel, One Brother Shy, due in bookstores in June 2017. Clearly Penguin Random House/McClelland & Stewart is trying to give my novels a certain recognizable look and feel, as this design is similar to the covers of my last two novels. My deep gratitude to the wonderful designer, Five Seventeen (and yes, that’s his name) for this cool and colourful cover.

As for what the feather and scotch tape symbolize, well, I’ll leave it to you to connect the dots after you’ve read the novel.

And yes, I will be podcasting this novel starting sometime in March.

Just to let you know where we are in the publishing process, we’re now in the final copyediting stage. Just looking for errant commas and misplaced periods. Almost there…

 

One Brother Shy is finished!

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

Typewriter2 (The End)

True to my pledge, I’m doing my best to keep you all up to date on the progress of my sixth novel, One Brother Shy. I started the actual writing of this manuscript back in early March, having spent the preceding six months or so conceiving the story and then mapping it out in what eventually became an 80 page chapter-by-chapter outline. I’m now pleased to report that the novel is finished!

I sent the manuscript to my editor, Doug Gibson, about a week ago. Since then, he’s read it a few times and worked his editorial magic. He complained that I’d left him little to do, which I took as a good sign. I received his editorial suggestions on the weekend and have been working my way through them, page by page, ever since.

And now, it’s finished! One Brother Shy is finished, at least until the manuscript is put through the copy-editing process at McClelland & Stewart. Having made this journey on five previous occasions, I know that copy editing will yield more little changes thanks to minor discrepancies, inconsistencies, and typos that neither Doug nor I caught, even though we’ve both been immersed in the manuscript these last few weeks.

But the important point here is that, at least for a while, the novel is out of my hands while the wheels of publishing grind on. This frees me, and my addled mind, to consider what story might be told in my seventh novel. I have a few ideas, but none has yet grabbed my throat and refused to let go. Soon, I hope.

Still no formal word on when One Brother Shy will be published, but stay tuned. It will be sometime in 2017. When I know, you’ll know.

One Brother Shy is, among other things, the story of identical twins discovering one another some 25 years after they were born. While there is virtually no autobiographical content in this novel, as you can see below, I do know what it’s like to have an identical twin brother. I’ve dedicated this new novel to my identical twin brother, Tim (on the left, below). He’s been big supporter throughout my writing odyssey. This shot was taken when we were about fifteen. I just wish I still had that much hair.

T&T twin photo

 

Thrilled to sign on with M&S for two more novels

Monday, June 27th, 2016

M&S logo

This has been in the works for a while now, but it’s just being announced today. I’m happy to report that I recently signed a contract with McClelland & Stewart for two more novels. The first, One Brother Shy, will be published sometime in 2017, while the second, (whatever it ends up being!) should be out sometime in 2018.

M&S is the only publishing home I’ve ever known and I’m thrilled to be with them for the next two novels, and I hope many more thereafter. As for all of my novels thus far, Douglas Gibson will be my editor on One Brother Shy, supported by Bhavna Chauhan.

I’m just finishing the manuscript for One Brother Shy so we’re on track for number one. I’ll keep you posted as we work our way through the editing, designing, and publishing process.

My deep thanks to M&S for keeping me around for another two novels, and to my stalwart literary agent, Beverley Slopen for all her efforts . It’s a happy day.

A wonderful evening with Margaret Atwood

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

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I’m a little tardy recording this memorable event, but better late than never. Back in May, Margaret Atwood invited me to be the speaker at an annual fundraiser in Windsor in support of the Pelee Island Bird Observatory, an organization to which Margaret and her husband, Graeme Gibson, are deeply committed. I was honoured to be there. Margaret introduced me, which was a surreal experience. I imagine it would be similar to a rookie singer-songwriter being introduced by Paul McCartney, only more so.

I managed to get through my talk and it all seemed to go well. I noted that two very big highlights of my writing life had been when Margaret had tweeted favourably about my first novel, The Best Laid Plans, and then again about my current novel, Poles Apart. It was not just extraordinarily gratifying when she did this, but it gave me a big sales kick as she currently has over 1.2 million followers.

Margaret Atwood tweet re TBLP

Atwood Tweet re Poles Apart

I sat with Margaret for dinner and then again after the event for a signing. An experience I’ll not soon forget.

Writing Update

Monday, April 18th, 2016

It’s been many weeks since my last post where I revealed that I’d started writing the manuscript for my sixth novel, One Brother Shy. I figured I owed you an update. As of today, I’m more than 30,000 words into the new novel and all seems to be going according to plan. Finding the time to stay on schedule is the challenge. I’ve been trying to complete one 5,000-6,000 word chapter each week, and for the most part, I’m on track. At any rate, I’ll have the manuscript finished sometime in the summer.

I’m currently writing Chapter 6. When it’s finished later this week, I may send the first six chapters to Doug Gibson, my principal editor at McClelland & Stewart for his initial take on the story. We’ve learned from the last two novels that comments he might have are much easier to accommodate at this early stage, rather than waiting until I’ve finished the entire manuscript.

So there you have it. It’s about one third written. So far, so good (I think!).

 

I’ve started writing the manuscript for novel #6

Saturday, March 5th, 2016

Starting blocks

Yes, it’s time to dust off my traditional starting blocks metaphor, that I think I’ve used for nearly all of my novels. How very creative of me. It may be tired and shopworn, but it feels like the perfect analogy for my writing process. Olympic sprinters train for a very long time just so they can then run the big race. In the same way, other than the Olympic part, I spend many months creating, shaping, and mapping out a new story in anticipation of the chance to write it. Only when the very detailed outline is finished (for this novel, it took a year and is 79 pages), can I slip into the starting blocks and begin to write the manuscript itself. Well the gun just sounded and I’m out of the blocks.

I’ve now finished the first of 17 chapters of the manuscript for my sixth novel, One Brother Shy. While I love the story-mapping and outlining phase, it always feels good to start writing the real sentences of the manuscript. In this new novel, as is my custom, I’m writing about something I know a thing or two about. It’s the story of a pair of identical twins. You may or may not know that I am an identical twin. One Brother Shy is not in any way autobiographical, but I can certainly write about the experience of being a twin with some authority and authenticity (at least, that’s the plan).

In One Brother Shy, a loved one dies, secrets are revealed, mysteries are solved, oceans and continents are crossed, the lost are found, closure is gained, and someone is nearly made whole again. Oh yeah, and it’s funny, too (at least I hope it’s funny).

We’re in discussions with Penguin Random House/McClelland & Stewart right now about timing and hope to have something to report on that front shortly. In the meantime, it’s back to the manuscript…