Listen to “Moonshine” on the Manawaker Flash Fiction Podcast

I am officially dubbing 2019 the Year of the Podcast! In February, my paranormal comedic short, “Bad Vibrations,” was read by the incredible Tina Connelly on the Toasted Cake Podcast. And today, you can listen to my darkly sweet modern fairytale, “Moonshine,” on the Manawaker Flash Fiction Podcast, read by the equally incredible CB Droege.

“Moonshine” explores adolescent heartbreak and midnight enchantment and whether or not you should trust fairies. Speaking of fairies, there is fairy dialogue in this story, and CB Droege completely kills it. The moment I heard one of my fairies speak, my face lit up with the biggest grin, and it stayed there for a full ten minutes. Truly, this narration is fantastic! I’m really honored to have a story featured on the podcast. CB, you’ve outdone yourself!

If you happen to have ten minutes to spare and love fairytales, this one’s for you. Listen to “Moonshine” HERE.

And if you enjoy CB’s reading of my tale, consider subscribing to the Manawaker Flash Fiction Podcast or becoming a patron.

Cheers to the Year of the Podcast!

Listen to “Bad Vibrations” on the Toasted Cake Podcast

toasted-cake-logo-100

My paranormal comedic short, “Bad Vibrations,” has risen from the dead!

This story was originally published in Alternate Hilarities: One Star Reviews of the Afterlife, an anthology that, sadly, is no longer in print. Thus, “Bad Vibrations” has been floating in the ether for a bit.

I’ve always loved this story. It was one of my first forays into humor. Writing this piece helped me unlock a style and voice I didn’t know I possessed. And it gave me an excuse to be colorful and inappropriate and to let some freak flags fly!

I was so excited when “Bad Vibrations” was picked up for the Toasted Cake podcast. Today, I’m straight up fangirling! Tina Connelly, the creative mind behind the podcast, is a comedic badass! Her timing is impeccable. And the voice she uses for my protagonist? She is Gabby! The recording makes me laugh, which is a joyful experience and such a gift.

If you need a chuckle, which just might evolve into a fully belly laugh, give “Bad Vibrations” a listen HERE.

One final note: As Tina so aptly states in her intro to the story: “There is a content warning on this one for some mild swearing and some totally grown up discussion of sexy sex topics.” (If you’re alone, blast it! In public, headphones, my friends.)

Enjoy! And if you like Tina’s reading, subscribe to the Toasted Cake podcast for weekly idiosyncratic flash fiction goodness!

Giftmas 2018 – Anything But Plain

Giftmas-2018

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Even in my hometown of sunny San Diego, California, it feels like the holiday season. The temperature has dropped enough to warrant the daily donning of boots, scarves, and heavy jackets. Pumpkin, peppermint, gingerbread, and eggnog-flavored treats are everywhere. My husband and I are working our way through our annual tour of holiday movies. And I have to admit, I love, love, love giving gifts – especially the ones that really matter.

That’s why I’m participating in Giftmas 2018.

What’s Giftmas, you ask? It’s a blog tour Rhonda Parrish hosts every December to raise awareness and funds for the Edmonton Food Bank. This year, the blog tour has an Advent theme. Twenty-four authors have donated stories to share on the twenty-four days leading up to Christmas, one each day – and then Rhonda is sharing a super-cool surprise on Christmas Day!

You don’t need to donate in order to read the Giftmas stories (they’re just hanging out on the interwebs for you to discover and enjoy; check out #Giftmas2018 on social media or this post on Rhonda’s blog with links to each published story), but we do hope these tales—some happy, some sad, some holiday-themed, some sci-fi breakup letters—inspire you to donate a little something to help the folks who benefit from the Edmonton Food Bank. Even a dollar makes a difference!

You can donate HERE to make the season merrier and brighter for someone in need.

And now, without further ado, it’s story time!

Yesterday, Kurt Kirchmeier demolished my heart with his gorgeous story “Souls on Display.” Tomorrow, I can’t wait to see what E.C. Bell shares on her blog. Today, check out my feel-good romance short about a bad first date, an unlikely cupid, and a heartwarming realization.

Enjoy!

Anything but Plain

By Tiffany Michelle Brown

As the crowd about her hummed with excitement and low conversation, Kate Saxon turned, regarded Lawrence Chilton’s very plain profile, and tried not to grimace. She shifted her gaze to a man in his seventies who was snoozing in his scratchy theater seat beside her and wished she could body-swap with him.

What she wouldn’t give to sleep through the next couple hours without having to worry about the consequences. No pretense, no mask, no pretending to have a good time—none of the bullshit that accompanied the vile mating ritual that was the blind date. Just sweet, mind-numbing sleep.

To be fair, Lawrence wasn’t horrible company. He was simply expected company, which was worse in Kate’s book.

He’d showed up at her door at precisely 6 PM, freshly shaven, a bouquet of pink carnations underarm. He was her height, normal looking, and held every door open for her. He took her to a well-known Italian restaurant where they shared a bottle of Chianti and blew through the checklist of obligatory first date questions and answers over a fried artichoke appetizer—my job is very satisfying, I go to yoga about twice a week, my family lives an hour away, and my sister is getting married in the fall. They’d both taken to studying the décor of the restaurant in mock appreciation by the time their entrees arrived. There was no spark—of interest or romance.

When the waitress took their plates, Kate rejoiced that the date was nearly over. She’s let nice-enough-but-predictable Lawrence take her home. She’d open another bottle of wine and do Tina Turner impressions in heels while listening to a record on her vintage turntable. It was her post bad date ritual. It was also wonderful cardio.

But Kate’s plan was foiled. Lawrence excitedly pulled a white envelope from his tweed coat and announced he had two tickets for the 8 PM performance of King Lear at the Orpheum Theater downtown. Kate smiled a fake smile, said something about loving “the Bard,” and took a sip of air from her far-too-empty wine glass.

Now, she sat in the front row of the theater, picking at a loose seam on her skirt, wishing she were in her seventies and, thus, allowed to fall asleep on a date without it being considered rude.

Of course, if she did fall asleep and snored like a trucker, perhaps Lawrence would find her repulsive and never call again. Kate gave serious thought to the pros and cons of this option as the lights in the theater dimmed.

“This is going to be great,” Lawrence whispered.

Kate offered a tight-lipped, “Mm hmm,” and then slouched in her chair, having decided she’d give the I’m-so-bored-I-fell-sleep routine a shot. The risk of offense was worth it. She needed to get out of here—or just zone out for the duration of the show. If she was lucky, she’d be extra revolting and drool.

About ten minutes into the show, Kate had her eyes closed when she felt a tickle on her left knuckle. She tensed. Oh God, he’s trying to hold my hand.

Kate’s eyes flicked open, and she looked down, ready to pull her hand discreetly into her lap. But Lawrence’s hand was nowhere to be found. Instead, a spider of damn near Amazonian size peered up at Kate like a puppy dog yearning for a cuddle.

Kate stood up and began to shriek, flicking her wrists in an effort to buck the spider from her hand. But the arachnid held on valiantly like a cowboy at a rodeo, desperate for its six seconds of fame.

Kate was vaguely aware of running about, climbing something—and perhaps rolling around on the ground?—but her sense of location in the theater was a blur until the spider gave up, leaped from her hand, and disappeared through a crack in the stage into the orchestra pit below.

Kate looked up and was blinded by white light. As her eyes adjusted, she peered out into the audience of the theater—at the horrified patrons; at Lawrence, whose mouth hung open; at the old man she’d been seated next to only moments ago and who was now very much awake. She peered over her shoulder and spied actors in Elizabethan garb staring at her as if she were in her underwear.

Kate gazed down at her favorite peep-toe heels and realized she was on the apron of the stage, standing directly above the unused orchestra pit. And she was frozen to the spot, a mute snow woman in the middle of a theater in downtown Phoenix.

Shit.

As Kate opened her mouth, desperate to deliver an apology, Lawrence stood up in the front row. Kate’s stomach twisted. She was sure he’d storm out—or worse, reprimand her in public.

But instead, he started to sing. “Don’t go breakin’ my heart…”

Kate stood there, dumbfounded, frowning at him in confusion.

Lawrence stepped forward and climbed the lip of the stage. He repeated the line, taking Kate’s hand in his, then gave her a nod.

Kate opened her mouth and delivered a truly shaky and off-pitch, “I couldn’t if I tried.”

Lawrence smiled. “Honey, if I get restless.”

Kate smiled. “Baby, you’re not that kind.”

Silence enveloped the theater.

“Now bow,” Lawrence instructed.

Kate bent at the waist and the theater erupted in laughter and applause. Kate straightened and grinned. Lawrence squeezed her hand and a subtle warmth filled Kate’s heart.

“What do you say we get out of here?” Lawrence asked over the trill of the audience.

Kate gave him a nod and he pulled her offstage into the wings, laughing all the while. The stage manager gave them a strict talking to as he led them through a narrow hall past dressing rooms and out the stage door exit.

In the alley behind the theater, Kate leaned against brick and dissolved into laughter. Lawrence did the same, and their shared hilarity echoed off the façades about them and into the starry night.

As Kate’s giggles died down, she looked over at her date. Lawrence’s eyes sparkled in the lamplight, and Kate admitted inwardly that she’d been wrong. Lawrence’s profile was anything but plain.

END

Get Your Jitter Fix with “The Promise”

Jitter 6

Bite-sized horror stories usually aren’t my thing. I generally regard the horror genre as one to be savored. I love creepy world-building. Take me through the whole damn haunted house, room by room, and point out the curiosities that will make my head spin. I adore stories that are quick to unsettle you, then slowly build toward a terrifying revelation.

There’s a reason why horror lovers devour the huge tomes written by Stephen King or Dan Simmons. Dreadful stories are mini addictions. You keep turning the pages, wanting more and more – sometimes, inexplicably.

My latest horror short, “The Promise,” which is now available in Jitter #6, isn’t a page-turner – literally. It’s micro fiction, a sliver of terror, a quick hit of dread. There aren’t a lot of pages to turn, even if you wanted to (and hopefully you do!).

I wrote “The Promise” to see if I could create something turbulent and atmospheric and terrible and reminiscent of classic monster horror – in less than 1,000 words.

“The Promise” creeped out the editors at Jitter Press enough for them to include it in Jitter #6. Hopefully, it’ll creep you out, too.

The Promise (Excerpt)

By Tiffany Michelle Brown

She’d nearly choked on it that night on the moonlit beach—the sharp, pungent smell of dark promises and fragile desperation. Now, the noxious aroma threaded through her hair as something tugged at the floral comforter covering her toes. Lila’s eyes flew open. Her heart thumped in her chest.

“Mommy, there’s something under my bed.” She could barely hear Brayden’s whisper above the wave of adrenaline that whooshed through her veins. Bad memories poured over her, fresh and shocking as ice water.

This isn’t happening. You were supposed to forget. It’s been nine years.

Lila fought to keep her voice steady, for her son’s sake. “There’s nothing to be afraid of, sweetheart.” The lie was thick on her tongue.

Lila closed her eyes, attempting to lessen the sudden sting building behind them, but an image of her husband, water swollen and drained of color, painted the backs of her eyelids. She grabbed her hair and tugged hard, needing to feel something.

No. What she needed was to keep it together. She needed to comfort Brayden.

Lila swung her legs off the mattress and pulled her sleep-heavy body to a seated position. She made out a tuft of perfect corn silk hair and the glitter of Brayden’s wide eyes in the dim. She extended a hand toward him, and the next thing she knew, her darling boy was wrapped around her forearm, his little body radiating heat, his heartbeat hammering against her skin. A jolt of regret careened through her chest. She gasped, sucking in air, and gagged on sulfur. She coughed twice into her free hand and switched to breathing through her mouth.

Lila glanced over her shoulder at Martin, wondering if she’d disturbed him. Her husband lay still, almost as still as that night on the sand, but here in their master bedroom nearly a decade later, he breathed normally. In, out. In, out.

She thought of their time together—their first date, their wedding, Brayden’s birth, Emily’s birth, their grand renovation of this house. All the beautiful moments they’d accumulated together.

She’d had to save him, right?

…Read the rest in Jitter #6!

No Joke: Read “Bad Vibrations” in Alternate Hilarities V: One Star Reviews of the Afterlife

Ebook Cover

Since I began publishing fiction in 2012, I’ve billed myself as a horror and fantasy author, someone inclined to write about monsters and mayhem and mythological creatures. For a few years, I was completely satisfied writing about time travel, ghosts, devils, sirens, succubi, and devious drug plots.

And while I will continue to write about these things, I’ve started to play with new genres and writing styles. The other night, I finished my first romance novelette. Before that, a comedic, satiric take on a fairy tale. Comedy and romance are becoming a regular part of my repetoire, and it’s a really exciting and fun shift. (My writing group back in Phoenix, Arizona, would be so proud, a group that often requested I write something in which someone didn’t die or the conflict was resolved happily.)

So it’s fitting that today, April Fool’s Day, marks the publication of my very first piece of straight-up comedic writing. No joke, I’ve written something that I hope makes you laugh, not shiver in terror.

Today, Alternate Hilarities V: One Star Reviews of the Afterlife is available via Strange Musings Press, bringing you 33 crazy, wacky tales from the great beyond and outlining just what could go wrong with it:

As you shuffle off this mortal coil, many things will go through your mind. Will you be remembered well? Did you live the best life you could? Did you leave the iron on? And most importantly, did you remember to delete your browser history recently? But the big question that will finally hit you full on, is there something after all of this? And if so, will it suck? If only Yelp! had a category for the afterlife.

Here is a collection of humorous tales of the afterlife that covers the I.T. woes of Heaven, the dangers involved in using out-of-date occult tools, the perils of not saving appropriately for the hereafter, the shock of finding out that not every good deed will get you through the pearly gates and the cold hard fact that paradise just isn’t for everyone.

So go to the light at your own peril.

It could be life everlasting, or it could be an oncoming train.”

My contribution, “Bad Vibrations,” explores the motivations of a ghost’s very first haunting – and the truly embarrassing secrets she wishes had followed her to the grave.

Pick up your copy today, and be on the lookout for a blog takeover by Alternate Hilarities editor Giovanni Valentino on April 11 and my author interview with Strange Musings on April 14!

Read “No Ice Cream,” “The Remnants,” and “Bring the Llama” in Ironology 2015

11986951_10104233869229022_5594307328744955560_n

I am having a crazy week as a writer, because as of this morning, I’ve had four stories published this week!

Three of those stories are flash fiction pieces that I’ve written as a member of the Iron Writer community over the past year. I’ve written about Iron Writer before. It’s a concept and community that has challenged and changed my writing style and taught me how to craft quality flash fiction.

This week, The Iron Writer published a collection of flash fiction stories – and I’m in the anthology – three times! Here’s the blurb on the back of the book, which will explain and describe The Iron Writer and this collection better than I ever could:

“Atop the writer’s desk await the tools of the the craft. Four days and the deadline looms. Four elements must integrate the pieces into five hundred words. The pieces begin to fall into place. The competing writers will not relent and every word counts. The Iron Writer is a web-based flash fiction competition. It is about crafting short, element based stories in a competitive environment; winner take all. It was conceived out of the desire to help writers of all skill levels improve the writing through fast, fun skirmishes with other writers using elements common to each story. From around the world, writers have gathered and competed. Some are veterans of the craft; some are new to the game. Yet all of them were willing to do battle to discover if they were worthy of carrying the title of Iron Writer. Contained here are the winning stories by the current champions of… The Iron Writer Challenge.”

Ironology 2015 is a compilation of all the winners of the weekly challenges over the past year. And I am so proud to announce that three of my flash fiction stories, “No Ice Cream,” “The Remnants,” and “Bring the Llama,” appear in this volume.

If you’d like to take a flash fiction journey through a collection that is quirky, emotional, and crosses all genres of fiction, pick up a copy of Ironology 2015.

Me? I’ll just be over here eating cheesecake and sipping whiskey to celebrate!

Becoming an Iron Writer

Iron Writer Challenge

The circumstances surrounding my discovery of The Iron Writer are vague at best; I think I was researching places to submit my short stories for publication and a few web clicks later, I found this rad place to challenge my flash fiction writing skills and test my creativity.

Here’s how The Iron Writer challenge works. Each week, four writers are pitted against each other. They are given four elements, a 500-525 word limit, and four days to craft a flash fiction masterpiece. The submissions are posted to the website each week where the public can vote on their favorite piece. Behind the scenes, impartial judges rate the stories. The popular votes and the judges’ votes are combined and voila, a winner is selected.

A couple months after joining the Iron Writer community, I’m in the finals for the Iron Writer Summer Solstice Open. And I think that’s pretty dang cool.

To get to the finals, I’ve written two qualifying stories, one in which I had to combine the gods, dice, cocktails, and irrigation boots, and another in which I had to combine the point of view of Death, a chamber pot salesman, the Justice League v. Avengers, and a minion (a la Despicable Me). It hasn’t been easy, but I love the stories I’ve crafted from these crazy prompts. I’m better for it. They’ve stretched my brain in new ways, made me write differently. Growth in my craft, my friends.

For the finals, my elements are:

A lost key

A dessert topping

Travel brochures

A thermostat

And here’s my entry:

The Remnants

By Tiffany Michelle Brown

The body was starting to smell—sickly sweet like bruised plums abandoned in the trashcan for too long. Jocelyn imagined the internal sugars rebelling, turning to acid, attacking the flesh. She brought her cup of tea to her nose, inhaled steam and chrysanthemums, felt the comfort settle into her bones. She knew the solace would evaporate quickly. She needed to decide.

Jocelyn bent forward and surveyed the glossy brochures fanned out on the coffee table. India. Australia. Lebanon. Germany. Luxembourg.

“Where would you like to go?” the travel agent had asked.

Jocelyn took off her sunglasses and hat, returned the agent’s gaze, and said, “Far away.”

The agent’s accommodating smile dissipated like instant coffee granules in hot water.

“And I want options.”

Jocelyn had received a handful of brochures generally produced for couples researching honeymoon destinations or kids fresh out of high school ready to backpack the continents before heading to college. For Jocelyn, this wasn’t about adventure; it was about survival.

The old two-story house shifted and settled, startling Jocelyn. Tea sloshed over the rim of her mug. She sighed and pattered to the kitchen for a towel.

While dabbing her top, the house shifted again—louder this time. Jocelyn dropped the towel and grabbed a knife from the butcher block. Her heart hammered in her chest and her muscles tensed…TO BE CONTINUED!

Yeah, I’m teasing y’all. To read the full story, check out the Iron Writer website. And then vote! (Hopefully for me?)