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Greg Bardsley

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You like depravity, you dirty little thing

Yeah, I know what you like. You like to read that sick shit. And you’re wondering if that guy over there — that seemingly normal guy over there enjoying his coffee — is capable of concocting the same kind of disgusting, perverted and trangressive stories that percolate through your skull each and every day. Well, guess what — maybe he is. Maybe he’s just like you, with a mind in the gutter.

Hell, if you pick up the latest edition of Out of the Gutter, the “modern journal of pulp fiction and degenerate literature,” you will see that you and I are not the only ones with bent imaginations. There’s some seriously great (and sick) fiction up in that piece — so far, I have really enjoyed stories by Jed Ayres, Vicki Hendricks, Charlie Stella, Jordan Harper, Sophie Littlefield, David Cranmer, Randy Rohn, Matt Louis and Nicholas Korpon, and I’m still reading.

Apparently, you and I aren’t the only ones who like the sick stuff. Bookgasm just weighed in with a nice review of OOTG; it also included some favorable words about my story, “Headquarters Likes Your Style.” [Hey, I never said I was above shameless self-promotion.]

Elsewhere, the depravity continues unabated. Plots with Guns came out with yet another top-shelf edition chock full of great stories — be sure to check them out. …. And I recently learned that Jen Jordan will include my story, “Hotshot 52,” in her upcoming anthology, UNCAGED [Bleak House Books], which hits bookstores this summer. 

And finally ….. Speaking of people who write fucked-up shit, I met Jed Ayres for the first time tonight. I’m in St. Louis for work, and he was gracious enough to take in a few pints with me. After the second round of beers, we both expressed relief that the other guy wasn’t a psycho or, worse, an asshole. With this Internet thing, you never know.

I”ll leave you with the list of authors to be included in UNCAGED. With this group of writers, I see myself more as the towel boy. Anyone want a towel — or has a wet one they no longer need — just holler.

Pierce Hansen
Evan Kilgore
Tim Maleeny
Nick Stone
Simon Kernick
Christa Faust
Victor Gischler
Stephen Blackmoore
Blake Crouch
Declan Burke
Gregg Hurwitz
Brian Azzarello
Simon Wood
Steven Torres
Allan Guthrie
Martyn Waites
Bryon Quertermous
J.D. Rhoades
Stuart MacBride
Patrick Shawn Bagley
Scott Phillips
Greg Bardsley
J.A. Konrath
Maxim Jakubowski
Talia Berliner

Diggin’ it

payingforit_I’m happy to report that Tony Black has succeeded in putting out a great debut novel with PAYING FOR IT, and I’m left thinking this is a writer I can see myself reading for a long time. With PAYING FOR IT, Black delivers tight prose, spot-on dialogue, and a story that is both riveting and heartbreaking.

Former journalist Gus Dury is a down-and-our alcoholic with few prospects. His wife is trying serve him divorce papers, but all he can worry about is making it through the day without getting the shakes or having to think of his past. When a friend’s son is brutally murdered, Dury agrees to snoop through the underbelly of Edinburgh in search of answers. Along the way, he confronts not only his haunted pasted but the best and worst of human nature. He also ends up fighting for his life. Great read.

I think what hooked me was Black’s ability to say so much — in both narration and emotion — with so few words. That, and the fact he has managed to create a protagonist who, for all his shortcomings, makes you care.

In the years to come, I’m expecting much, much more from Tony Black.

Add Dorst to the stack

I had a chance to see a Doug Dorst at Kepler’s Bookstore last week.

I got to know Dorst as one of his students in a fiction-writing course I took in 2003. Long story short, the former Stegner Fellow led a great class and later helped me with the novel I was completing. Along the way, I got to know a little more about Dorst. Apart from being a genuinely kindhearted and insightful guy, he’s also pretty damn multi-talented — he’s everything from a former lawyer to a three-time Jeopardy champion. So when I learned that his long-awaited novel, “Alive in Necropolis,” had been released by Three Rivers and was winning critical acclaim (The New York Times gave it a nice review, and Amazon named it one of their favorite books in July), I was thrilled for him. Seeing him read from “Alive” at Kepler’s was an added bonus.

Dorst takes some big chances with “Alive,” does some interesting things, and makes it work, according to the large number of writers championing the book. At Kepler’s, he read the opening section and hooked a few more writers, including me. I bought a copy and added it to my ever-growing stack of unread books authored by friends. If there’s ever a reason to be happy about losing the battle against your reading stack, this is it.

A flurry

It’s a flurry. A flurry of action going down once again in my neck of the woods.

In fact, there’s so much going on I can’t keep up with it. I’m not talking about the fact I can’t seem to find the time to get a haircut and consequently have something close to a bouffant on my head. I’m not talking about the fact my late nights have left me with what my 4-year-old calls “red cracks” in my eyes. I’m talking about the fact I am liable to get buried alive by the fruit of my writer friends’ success.

First, Riske came out the other week with a sweet and succinct piece of flash fiction over at Pindeldyboz. Expect to read far more of Riske, because it seems like the literary-fiction crowd is really starting to give him the credit he’s long been due.

Next, I heard from Ayres, screenwriter of the indie noir film, Mosquito Kingdom, which made a big splash at the St. Louis Film Festival last weekend. Very cool. And be sure to keep your eye on this cat, too. I sense far more to come from Jed Ayres, in both film and crime fiction.

Then there are all the books coming out by some truly talented friends and blog buds. That tower on my nightstand? Yeah, it’s their new novels. There’s Swierczynski‘s “Severance Package.” There’s Gischler‘s “Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse.” And there’s Black‘s highly anticipated, well-reviewed debut noir novel “Paying for It.” Black, a journalist in Edinburgh, had written four novels before penning “Paying for It,” found agents for each, came close, but didn’t see them published. Now it’s his moment, and people are noticing. The Scotsman has taken notice, and Scottish actor Garth Cruickshank recently lent some excerpt narration to a gritty video featuring “Paying for It.”

In other words, there’s some great stuff out there right now. Check it out.

One of those moments

It feels like one of those moments, one of those moments when a lot of folks you dig are having, well, their moment.

Specifically, it feels that way for my writer friends. Lots of good things happening for some fine writers.

First, Bryon Quertermous had a hell of a week, with his short fiction appearing in no less than two printed anthologies. First Amazon sent me “A Prisoner of Memory: And 24 of the Year’s Finest Crime and Mystery Stories” (Pegasus; 432 pages; $15.95), which puts Bryon’s story beside those by heavy hitters Michael Connolly and Lawrence Block, as well as stories from Chimichanga friends Patti Abbot and Hilary Davidson. Pretty sweet. Then a few days later, I dropped in on the massive Barnes and Noble in San Mateo, where right on the front table I found “Hardcore Hardboiled” (Kensington; 352 pages; $14), which also features a Quertermous story with the rest of Thuglit‘s top stories in 2006. I’m thrilled not only for Bryon, but also another Changa buddy, Todd Robinson, aka Big Daddy Thug, publisher and founder of Thuglit, which ran my story, “Big Load of Trouble” last year. It’s Todd’s vision, tenacity and sharp sensibilities that have made Thuglit what it is today — one of the best places to read crime fiction online. One of the headlining contributors to “Hardboiled” is another Chimichanga bud, Duane Swierczynski, who’s thriller “Severance Package” (St. Martin’s; 288 pages: $13.95 pages) just hit the stores and is getting rave reviews.

But wait, there’s more. … Major Changa philanthropist Anthony Neil Smith just completed a road tour for his new novel, “Yellow Medicine” (Bleak House Books; 260 pages; $14.95), which continues to get great reviews for great reasons. Meanwhile, my good friend Al Riske recently won a short-fiction contest run by the Blue Mesa Review and will soon see his story, “Pray for Rain” in print. And lastly, prose stylist Tony Black, publisher of U.K.-based Pulp Pusher, which ran my “She Don’t Like Hecklers” last year, soon will see his first novel, “Paying for It,” released by Random House and offers the following video teaser. Congrats to Tony and all the others who are enjoying their moments.


Minutiae Monday — “pea gravel and Yellow Medicine”

Minutiae for your Monday …

My copy of Anthony Neil Smith’s “Yellow Medicine” finally arrived, and I’m loving it. If great writing, original characters and compelling crime stories are your thing, I encourage you to participate today in Smith’s “Pyschobilly Monday” campaign by buying your copy of Yellow Medicine through Barnes & Noble. … When the writing is good, it can make just about anything interesting. Case in point: the landscape-design blog, A Verdant Life, authored by TV prima donna and poker buddy John Black. I’m not a landscape-design enthusiast (nor am I hater), but there’s something about interesting ideas and great writing that can hold my attention, even when the subject matter is pea gravel. It’s pleasing to watch someone do their thing really well. So be sure to check out A Verdant Life, which currently features John handing me my ass in the matter of “do-it-yourselfism.” … For one of two Mother’s Day appetizers tonight, I whipped up perhaps my strongest batch of guacamole of this young season. This came as a major relief, as my last two batches of guacamole had been substantially sub-par. Be sure to tune in on Aug. 1 when I open-source my recipe. … My feet hurt from some serious Mother’s Day facilitation, but it was a great day. … Last night my wife took me to a great jazz-and-dinner joint located through a side alley in San Francisco. … It feels good to be working on a novel again. … Who else digs A&E’s extremely well-produced reality program, “The First 48 Hours”?

The Great Psychobilly Blog Road Trip of 2008: Day 2, Part 2

If my pronuncshun sounsh ah lil off today, maybe it’sh zshee shotgun barrl in my mouthsh. You see, my blog hash beensh highjacked by badash author Anthony Neil Smith, and I dont’sh dare doosh so mush ash twitchsh. Whish ish why I’m handin’ over the keysh to Chimishangash ash Shunshet right nowsh. ….

Guest Post from Anthony Neil Smith

Last stop: Swierczynski’s Secret Dead Blog

Wow. That was exhausting. And somewhere around Tulsa, we had to abandon the Big Red Truck for one of those tricked-out Hummer stretch-limo SUVs. Riding in style now. But when we get to Greg’s crib, thank god he’s waiting with Mexican beer and homemade guacamole. Whip together a pitcher of margarita’s, and damn, that’s a nice break before we get on the road again (stone cold sober, too. *Ahem.* thank god it’s all virtual).

Greg Bardsley sprung up seemingly full-formed from the dirt already with a boatload of stylized pulp stories just screaming to be published. And published they have been (you can find the list over to the right, including the two I accepted–“Upper Deck,” which is now one of my favorite short stories, like, ever, and “Funny Face,” which is just fucking hilarious). Hoping to see so much more from him, and I can only imagine what his novels will be like. He’s got this imagination like if Satan were stoned, and I’m glad he figured out how to tap into it.

And here’s the shameless self-promotion part: I bet Greg would like Yellow Medicine! and the more people who buy it (especially on Monday, May 12th, to be forever, or at least this week, known as Psychobilly Monday), then the more I can keep writing exactly the sort of books I want to, telling the stories I think you’d enjoy hearing. That’s the fun of it, too. I used to think if I had the chance, I would sell out in a second. But then I tried writing a sell-out script, then a sell-out novel, and then eventually I figured it out: I can’t make myself sell out. I just can’t. Maybe it’s my twisted little personality or something, but all I know is that when I sit down to write a sweet little scene full of subtlety and grace, I just get all shaky and sweaty and before you know it, someone’s lost a head, or an eye, or a testicle. Or they found out their wife’s been fucking the entire bench of a somewhat popular arena football league. Or that the doctor was lying about how long they had to live…it was a lot less…and the doctor’s the one who gave you the disease. See? I just can’t. I’m having too much fun writing about the stuff that scares me shitless. And as long as you’ll keep reading, I promise to keep trying my best.

And so Day Two comes to a close as we set our eyes an an even longer trip tomorrow–to pick up four “First Offenders” (makes em sound like virgins, but by now they’ve all offended plenty of times): Jeff Shelby, Lori Armstrong, Karen Olson, and Alison Gaylin.

Driving Time: This one might take a week.
Tune for the leg: “Wild Thing” by Tone Loc (Don’t ask. it just seemed to fit.)

The communicator’s anti-climax

Wednesday night, I was in the midst of suffering a common malady in my profession — the communicator’s anti-climax.

Here’s how it works. The communicator, a total junkie for creating things that “connect” with viewers or readers, works his or her tail off to complete a big project. Lots of effort and thought goes into the project. Along the way, he has a blast — a blast creating, a blast getting feedback, a blast collaborating with other communicators.

This is part of the high.

The other part of the high is anticipating the connection that he hopes to make with the audience — the hope of connecting with strangers, of evoking emotions out of them that might range from laughter to glee to nostalgia to even sadness. And when it happens, when his work is unveiled, and people are affected in these human ways, the high is about as sweet as it can get. And in today’s world of blogs, metrics and email, never has the communicator enjoyed more immediate, direct and pure access to this juice, this “connection” juice.

But there’s a danger — the communicator’s anti-climax.

It happens as the “dust” starts to settle. Suddenly, there’s a void. Suddenly, the “connection” with the audience is over; they have moved on to something else. And in some cases, the reaction is not what one had hoped and the “connection” wasn’t as strong as he’d expected. And in the case of big efforts, like my work on an April Fools prank, the audience reaction, no matter how pronounced, will sometimes feel somewhat less than expected.

This is what happened to me the other night. I was crashing. I was crashing hard.

And yet, I was in denial. I kept checking hit counts and email messages, kept looking for signs that the “connection” with viewers was still there. But deep down inside, I knew it was gone. As a former newspaper reporter, and as a guy with a novel in a literary agent’s hands, I know from experience that the anti-climax is marked by a sense of failure, and subsequent exhaustion.

Luckily, my psyche re-balances, and my view of reality is more accurate, and I can better appreciate the work that has been completed, and before I know it, I’m back — ready to start something new, hoping to get another shot of that juice.

Does this happen to you with your professions/passions?

The agony and the ecstasy

The agony: Realizing there’s a great chance the manuscript on which you’ve spent countless nights and pre-dawn hours might never get published.

The ecstasy: Learning that a well-respected novelist likes one of your short stories so much that he sent it to his publisher.

The agony: Having a sobering conversation with your literary agent about how much more time he can spend on your project.

The ecstasy: Being able to tell a publisher that one of their novelists suggested they give your manuscript a good look.

The agony: Receiving a form rejection from said publisher a day later.

The ecstasy: Learning that one of your best friends, a talented and graceful writer, is a finalist for a fiction contest run by a great literary journal.

The agony: Dealing with radio silence as our stories and manuscripts “make the rounds” with editors.

The ecstasy: Discovering, to your great surprise, that an online magazine editor has nominated one of your stories for the 2008 Million Writers Award.

The agony: Failing to summon the energy to write after a long day of work and parenting.

The ecstasy: Coming home the next day to find your first-grader on the computer tapping out his own story, announcing, “If you’d like to put it on your blog, Dad, that would be fine with me.”

How could I, the “editor” of Chimichangas at Sunset, say no to this aspiring writer? So, after some light editing for clarity by Mom, I bring you ….

DINOSAUR IN THE CITY
by Jack Bardsley

Chaptr 1

One day a boy saw Nijl. He was driving a jeep the boy decided to follow but the jeep had DINOSAURS inside it.

When nijl got there he let two DINOSAURS out of it. The boy looked at the VLUSURAPTR it looked at him. the boy hid, but the raptor found him under the jeep. the boy ran uot.

From the jeep he went over the gate. He sees two DINOSAURS. he went out but it whas to late. The one DINOSAUR started to run. the boy ran home.

chaptr2 – the dinosaur

The dinosaur was veree fast it wus hard to run that fast. win he got home the teerecs chirnd uround and that mint things ar not gonu git good. so far thay hav noct over the pirumid and a cupl bildings. wot hav I dun?

thin uneagspedlee, anuthir teerex came and slamd into the uther. the uther TEEREX RAN UWAE. the teeRex behind it, he did not lic wut he did.

Chaptr. 3 the ter a bil see monstrs
— To be continued —

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