Search

Greg Bardsley

Category

fiction

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.

Short-story fever

I got it. I got it bad. I got short-story fever.

I’m not the only one. At work, two other cats — Riske and Richardson — also have short-story fever. Real bad. In recent weeks, both of them have seen their short fiction accepted by online literary journals. Meanwhile, I just shipped off a tale about degenerate activities to a journal that, well, loves that kind of thing. And so the three of us can be found at different points in the day (during lunch, between meetings, after work, etc.) talking about short stories — about our own, about others.

You ask me, and I’d say one of the great things about short stories is the far more immediate emotional payoff for the writer, compared with novels. A short story can be written in an evening, and the chance of soon-after sharing it with the reading public is, of course, far greater than it is with a novel. And of course, as a writer, there’s so much freedom with short stories — one can write a compelling piece without getting into geographic locations, last names, character backstory, family members, or any number of other things that usually warrant the writer’s attention in a novel. And because readers are more likely to give an unusual protagonist or storyline a few minutes of their lives (compared to hours and hours of their lives with a novel), I think you can take so many more risks with a short story.

I still love writing novels. In fact, I heard back from my literary agent last week that my next novel is promising and that I should definitely keep working on it. I’m thrilled, so I’m making a point to focus on the novel. But I have to admit that these short-story ideas keep popping up in the back of my head, begging to be written. I just tell them, “I’ll write you; it’ll just be a while.”

Anybody out there with similar problems? How do you handle it, strike that balance?

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.


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.

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

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

Waiting …. waiting …. waiting

My agent is starting to tell publishers about my novel, which has been pretty damn cool. For me, to finally have some really great book editors take a look at my stuff is like getting called up from the farm system for an afternoon of practice in the Majors. Of course, you know the odds of lasting beyond that one day of practice are slim — but, damn, it’s cool to at least see them give you a serious look.

So now I wait, and try to focus on producing new fiction, primarily the storylines and themes for the second, third and possibly fourth books in what would be a series of crime novels. And I’m making progress. But of course I spend too much time thinking about what might be happening out there with my manuscript — who might be reading it, what might be going through the editors’ minds as they do read it, whether any of them are reacting favorably to the idea of a smart and violent femme fatale who thoroughly bewitches a young journalist, or what they think of a paroled Oakland Raiders fan and his tiny pet monkey with the serious ear fetish.

We’ve gotten some initial feedback, and it’s been encouraging. The first editor to respond enjoyed the book and called it “a lot of fun.” The second response came from an editor who said the novel was entertaining and well-paced, and added that “Greg Bardsley clearly has talent” (I’m saving that comment). But neither of them made an offer. In fact, we’re early in the process, my agent reminds, and the manuscript is still out with other publishers. So I wait.

I think I’m getting good at that.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑