Winner! (sort of.)

I just learned that my short story Dysfunctional Slumber Parties was a finalist in this year’s Doris Betts Fiction Prize competition. Though I don’t get any prize money, writing is such a subjective business that any kind of achievement is worth a celebration. There for I am:

A) eating ice cream cake as I write this, and

B) sharing a section from the story: Continue reading

Big news!

I’m astonished, honored, and so excited to announce that my novel, How to Talk to Rockstars is among the 10 semifinalists for the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award. The winner will be announced in November, but I feel like I’m taking home a giant prize just to be included on a list with two of my literary heroes — Ron Rash and Robert Morgan — as well as talented musician and dance caller (and college math professor) Phil Jamison, and fellow Asheville journalist Rob Neufeld.

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via GIPHY

Indie 500 flash fiction contest!

In case you hadn’t heard, Mountain Xpress has brought back its Indie 500 flash fiction contest. Submissions are open through Tuesday, May 31. For details and to enter a 500 word story, click here or scroll down.

HOUSE FP FictionContest

All writers are invited to submit a Western North Carolina-set story of up to 500 words. Prizes include $50 plus publication for 1st place and publication plus bragging rights for two runners up.

The final judges are Katey Schultz and Jake Bible. Continue reading

How to Talk to Rockstars turns 1!

Time flies. This time just a year ago How to Talk to Rockstars was making its debut.

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Celebratory cookies were eaten, wine was imbibed, books were signed, and a tour was launched. I’m so glad that I got to share the journey with all of you and, since we can’t get together for an anniversary cupcake, I’ve decided to hold a giveaway.

All you need to do to win a copy of How to Talk to Rockstars is name your favorite rockstar, either in the comments field of this blogpost or on my Facebook page.

Two winners will be selected at random on Monday, May 30.

Short story award!

I’m so delighted to share that my short story, “Catching Out,” won the Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize. The final judge was Ron Rash — I actually entered the contest (and agonized over my story) in hopes that it would make it far enough along in the contest to be read by him. For that reason, this award means so much to me.

I’m also excited to share this story. It’s about a college registrar who fantasizes about riding the rails and was inspired, in part, by a woman I saw at the gym. It will be published in The Thomas Wolfe Review in late autumn.

Read the press release from the North Carolina Writers’ Network here.

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Photo by Michael Ranta from Vice

“How to Talk to Rockstars” ebook release and giveaway

“How to Talk to Rockstars” ebook release and giveaway

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT: The ebook version of How to Talk to Rockstars is finally available.

Find it on Amazon, check it out, download it, carry it around on your Kindle (or out-dated iPad, if you roll like I do).

To celebrate, I’m giving away TWO copies. To win, share your favorite concert memory in the comments field. The winner will be selected at random and announced here on Friday, Nov. 13, at noon. [Please note: If you win, you will need to provide your email address so I can send you the download code.]

Good luck!

How to Talk to Rockstars first chapter:

At the edge of the stage, in the limbo between darkness and spotlights, between anonymity and fame, Jude Archer knows two things: That he is a rare genius. And that he is a complete fraud.

Sometimes he turns these dual realizations over and over like a penny in his fingers. Sometimes he lets them alternately punish and soothe his soul, these words. One a barb and one a balm. The devil and the angel on his shoulders, but which is which?

Sometimes he lets the needles of knowing fill him with doubt, with hope. With fear, with excitement. And sometimes he just turns away from the knowing, tucks the coin away into a pocket for later.
Or for never.

Just off stage, Jude Archer is no one. It’s the moment of the day he hates most, those few seconds of not being. And then he hears his name.

For one night only —

And he’s already in the light, bathed in it, blinded by it. Soaking it in and becoming. Not just someone, but the one.

All eyes are on him, and he’s reflected back in their fevered glow. The one he’s become. But which one? The genius or the fraud?

Fame, fame. Remember my name.

Screen Shot 2015-11-05 at 5.24.34 PM    The terrible truth, thinks Bryn, is that I can close my eyes and feel you in the air around me. Heat of your skin, scratch of your beard, even though I’ve never been in the same room as you.

She blinks back into the present moment, pushes her glasses up on her forehead and massages her eyelids. For the hundred and tenth time she reminds herself that these details of Jude Archer that come so easily to mind are simply the work of an active imagination. Hers. He’s no different from any other musician she’s interviewed. She knows his bio and his latest album, Fly By Night. She knows a few details — his friends call him Jim, he wears skull beads wrapped around his wrist, he has tattoos of his own design snaking up his arms and covering his chest.

Bryn does like to go into an interview with an arsenal of minutia. The tiny details make the person on the other end of the telephone seem more real, more whole. She needs a whole picture in order to move forward. In order to ask the questions.

Deep breath. Chase away the jitters, focus, find an inner calm. Then dial. The numbers click under her fingertips.

Sometimes the musicians call her. Or, if they’re famous, their publicists call.
This is Amanda from Public Record. Hold while I get Marianne Faithful on the line. That sort of thing.

It’s rare but not unheard of that Bryn calls in. Sometimes she’s given the number and pass code to a conference call service where the voices of the different band members blur together until Bryn’s ear learns who is who. What makes each voice unique.

But Jude Archer’s number is just that. His number. She has it. Ever since it was sent to her, she’s been careful not to look at it too closely. Sometimes the most benign things can burn. Now she opens the email, writes the number in black ink at the top of her notebook. Dials.

Not that anyone dials anymore. How long since she used a rotary phone, crossed time and space in the resounding clatter of the dial spinning back to zero?

Let it go. Focus.

The phone rings. Bryn breathes. Must be calm, otherwise there’s a chance of squeaking out a greeting. She doesn’t want to sound like a child. Relax, take time, speak slowly. This is Bryn Thompson with Mic Stand Magazine. Voice low and smooth, easy, warm.

He answers on the third ring, says, this is Jude. Sounds like he just woke up.
She says her name too quickly, adjusts her speed, asks if this is a convenient time for him to talk.

Yeah, it’s fine.

Bryn cradles the receiver against her ear, watching the recorder measure the highs and lows of his voice. On the bottom end, the recorder barely registers. The skin on the back of her arms goose pimples. How’s your day so far? she asks. What city are you in this morning? The throwaway questions. Usually she tries to breeze through those. Makes sure the equipment is working and gets to the interview. Small talk only prolongs the awkwardness.

But his voice. Hoarse at the bottom and airy at the top. For just a minute she lets herself sink into it. Like when she was fifteen, stretching the phone cord to the basement stairs so she could talk in urgent whispers in the chilly dark.
Back when the dial clattered back to zero.

Bryn’s coworkers are all at their desks, typing their own stories. She knows that they’re at least halfway listening. She always halfway listens to their interviews. Knowing this is what pulls her back into the muscle memory of professionalism. The questions are in front of her on a scrap of paper, jotted down and scratched out, numbered in order of importance. She does what she’s supposed to do.

Let’s start with the name of the album, she says. And so it begins.