Search

Greg Bardsley

Category

creative writing

Opening his doors to noir

Hey, check me out. Today, I’m literary.

I like to pronounce it, “Littah-lehry,” affecting a self-important gaze as I make the final “r” roll nice and long, lowering my lids to emphasize that we’re talking about “important” work and all that. You see, I haven’t been literary before. Hell, maybe I’m still not literary. But today, a literary ‘zine called Storyglossia opened its doors to me and other crime writers for its special noir edition.

It reminds me of that scene in Caddyshack when the country club opens its pool for a special “caddy appreciation hour” — during which time a Baby Ruth candy bar is mistaken for poo at the bottom of the pool.

As a guy who writes a lot of crime fiction, I’ve always listened with fascination when other writers attempt to distinguish literary fiction from everything else. When pressed, they’re usually at a loss for words. Hell, I am, too. Maybe it’s like that famous Supreme Court ruling on porn in which Potter Stewart said it was hard to define but “I know it when I see it.” Kinda like a Baby Ruth at the bottom of a pool?

Doesn’t matter to me. Great crime fiction can offer just as much value as the best “literary” fiction, and it’s usually a lot more interesting, visceral and alive. I’ve also read some great general fiction that takes me places that crime fiction hasn’t. In fact, maybe we can learn a few things from each other. Maybe crime-fiction fusion, as you might call it, can bring out the best of both sensibilities.

If the new edition of Storyglossia is any indication, folks might be on to something here. I am truly honored to be included in the edition, which is guest edited by novelist Anthony Neil Smith (his great introduction is here) and is graced by stories by the likes of crime-fiction badasses Vicki Hendricks, Megan Abbott, Ray Banks, Seth Harwood, R. Narvaez, Fred Zackel, Kevin Wignall and Adam Cushman, to name a few of the talented contributors.

So I tip my hat to Steven McDermott at Storyglossia for opening his doors to noir, and for stating as he does that “crime stories matter.” And I thank Neil Smith for pushing me to write a new ending to “Funny Face,” which ultimately took my piece to a higher level.

Now go check out some crime-fiction fusion at Storyglossia.

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?

Introducing, “Minutiae Wednesday”

On other days, I might use this space to tackle lofty topics like “Eat Pray Love” and the 2008 Greg Bardsley Guacamole Season. But on Wednesdays, I think I’ll dive into the minutiae of life. This is, after all, a blog.

Here’s the minutiae as I saw it last night around 11:30 …..

“I’m currently wearing dark-blue sweats with double white stripes on the side. … My wife says she’s determined to beat me in some kind of hit-count battle between our blogs. …. I’m wondering how this one family down the street can afford to spend so much money. … Last night I stayed up way too late writing … I had to give my oldest child several time-outs tonight, and forever take away two of his toys. … I called another man “a jerk” today … Yesterday, I received my first-ever payment for fiction. … Our dishwasher broke again, and it will be weeks before the replacement part arrives. … Tonight I ghostwrote a letter for my sister, who is demanding that the guy who committed a hit-and-run against her pay to have the back bumper of her VW Bug dipped in chrome. … I took the garbage out to the curb tonight. … I like Debra Messing’s hairline. … I love the way my wife laughs. … Both our boys fell asleep by 8:38 tonight (so nice!). … When driving, I am forced to wear the most insane pair of volleyball sunglasses. … We’ll have to move out within a month so our contractor can get started with our add-on project. … I got a story accepted for STORYGLOSSIA‘s noir edition. …Tonight, my wife and I got a real kick out of Brett Michael’s “Rock of Love” reality program (great editing). … I’ve been listening to “fast-paced spy music” the past 24 hours. … I’m thinking, This list could go on forever. … Cutting off the minutiae — for now.”

Feeling good … for a friend

I’m feeling good.

I’m feeling good for a friend.

Today, a truly talented and thoughtful writer experienced one of those rare moments of pure joy and satisfaction. And I couldn’t be happier for him.

Enough said. The full story is here.

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 —

Plotting to “upper-deck”

Long ago, my sister told me about a truly grotesque and depraved “activity” — an activity that attracts only the most emotionally stunted and lowest-functioning individuals from the depths of civilization’s sewage system.

I never forgot about that activity. In fact, I wrote a story about it.

Today, this activity is at the heart of my short story, “Upper Deck,” which is included in the debut edition of the resurrected Plot with Guns crime magazine. And I couldn’t be more happy. Nor more honored.

Anthony Neil SmithDuring it’s previous five-year run, Plots with Guns earned its reputation for running award-wining crime fiction by anyone from Duane Swierczynski to Charlie Stella to Scott Wolven. And today, in its new form, the first edition achieves a wonderfully off-center, slightly artistic but never-pretentious persona — and I love it. Crime novelist Anthony Neil Smith wants to populate his quarterly with “contemporary transgressive/noir fiction,” and I think he might be on to something.

So I’ll admit it — I’m tickled, I’m thrilled, I’m honored. And yes, I’m a tad giddy to have “Upper Deck” included.

Now go check it out. … And let me know what you think.

Plots with Guns cover

Huffin’ & pantin’ & moo-moos

About 17 years ago, when I was fresh out of college and at my first daily newspaper, an older, morbidly obese woman would periodically saunter into the newsroom — always huffing and panting, and always wearing a floral moo-moo dress.

She was nice enough, except for her unwanted shoulder rubbing.

What would happen was, I’d be on deadline, finishing yet another story on mosquito abatement, when she’d approach from behind and start rubbing. The first time it happened, I was paralyzed — shocked beyond movement. The second time, I gritted my teeth, cringed and hunched up my shoulders, waiting for it to end.

“You like that?” she huffed in my ear.

“Um, thanks.” Still cringing. Shoulders still hunched. “Well, better get back to work.”

She panted closer, whispering in her husky voice. “Well, I’m just doing what I wish someone would do to me.”

All these years later, that line is still a favorite around my house, especially after a long day. The kids are finally asleep after another evening of unleashing boyish aggression throughout the household. Everyone’s bones are aching. Everyone is exhausted. Everyone just wants to veg on the couch. But you muster the energy to massage your spouse’s shoulders for a moment, and he or she sighs in relief, eyes closed, totally exhausted, thanking you profusely, which is when you say in a husky voice under your breath, “Well, I’m just doing what I wish someone would do to me.”

Good times.

I’m thrilled for Mario, but ….

How long did I last?

eatpray-716112.jpgTill the 28th “tale” — at which point, my system couldn’t withstand another page. The structural integrity of my psyche was shaking and quaking, and I knew that if I did venture into the 29th tale, things inside would begin to fissure and fracture and snap. I had to stop reading “Eat, Pray, Love,” the No. 1 New York Times bestseller by Elizabeth Gilbert.

It’s funny about books. I’m starting to think that writing books, especially novels, is like creating an illusion — providing carefully rendered, temporary interpretations of the world in a compelling way that suspends the reader’s disbelief and makes him want to enter your world. I’m not saying I’ve achieved this as a writer, but I do think that if your readers can’t suspend disbelief, it’s over — it’s like revealing the machinery of your illusions, the exposed slights of hand readers aren’t supposed to see.

And what makes an illusion most effective? I say it’s a dazzling distraction. I think about my favorite authors, and I realize they all possess some phenomenal literary “distraction” skills. Tim Dorsey is so damn funny, you pay no attention to the insane storylines he’s feeding you. Charlie Huston‘s prose style is so fun to read (such a literary aesthetic), you never even notice a few unlikely events that unfold in his world.

Which brings us to “Eat, Pray, Love” — in short, I wasn’t buying it.

The writing was excellent, and Gilbert’s narrative voice was compelling — and that sustained me for 87 pages. But ultimately, I could not suspend disbelief, and I couldn’t take another “tale” — of which there are 108 in the book. Somewhere along the way, this stopped feeling like a candid, authentic memoir and more like a deliberate, carefully planned-out and contrived “what-if” literary event — as in, “What if I spent a year traveling to three of the trendiest places in the world, included some angst over my divorce and bouts with depression, and wrote about it? Would that sell?”

Perhaps most bothersome was the fact that Gilbert had secured the book deal for “Eat, Pray, Love” (and the money for it) before she even set off on her journey to Italy, India and Bali, but hardly mentioned the deal in her memoir. After reading that, everything felt manipulated and controlled and fake. This wasn’t a personal, see-where-the-wind-takes-me journey. This was a planned-out literary event hashed out beforehand in New York.

Two friends of mine, Richardson and Riske, had already read the book and really enjoyed it. So we had at least a half-dozen debates. Slowly, I whittled away at them. Eventually, Riske sagged his head and sighed, “If we’d been discussing all this while I was reading the book, I don’t think I could’ve finished it.” I felt kind of bad about that — like I was ruining his memory of a great vacation. I’d had a friend do a similar thing to me with a book I’d loved — just goes to show you how subjective all this is.

And yet, I kept reading “Eat, Pray, Love.”

My wife Nancy, on the other hand, had stopped after only five pages. And now, every night, she’d glance at me and laugh to herself, saying things like, “I can’t believe you’re still reading that thing.” So one night I put the book on my lap and ask, “My friends wanna know why you had such a problem with this book.”

Nancy gets up. “Here, I’ll show you why.” She takes the book, fans the pages, closes her eyes and stops randomly on page 109. She reads aloud: “The tears begin when Mario — our host — weeps in open gratitude …” She shuts the book, tosses it to me and says, “That’s why I’m not reading it.”

And that was it for me — I moved on to Volume 2 of the crime-fiction journal, Murdaland. And I’m loving it.

murdaland2.jpg

Nothing says ‘Merry Christmas’ like a desert fatty with a sawed-off

The purveyors of degenerate literature over at Thuglit are busting quite a groove lately. Every month, the stories coming out of this crime zine seem to get better and better — i.e., sicker, nastier, creepier and more compelling.

thuglit22v2.jpgIn December, the Thugism is in top form, with bitter little morsels of crime fiction by everyone from established novelists to relative newcomers. Two of my favorites were “News About Yourself” (PDF) by novelist Scott Wolven and “Deep Cover” (PDF) by short-story writer Brian Haycock. Both stories had a great sense of place, some unpredictable characters and some pretty unexpected conclusions. Wolven’s piece gave me a good case of the creeps, and Haycock’s story gave me an instant aversion to desert-livin’ fatties with sawed-off shotguns (I know; I’m weird).

In other words, there’s some good Christmas readin’ over at Thuglit. Stuff to snuggle up to .. next to the tree … with a hot mug of cocoa.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑