Nowhere Near: Excerpt

NOWHERE NEAR

Stories
By Teddy Jones

  Genre: Short Stories / Literary Fiction / West Texas

Publisher: Midtown Publishing, Inc.

Date of Publication: May11, 2017

Number of Pages: 206

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Characters in the eleven stories in Nowhere Near act in ways that some might call “divinest madness.” Some of them have been pushed near their limits by years of stress. Others mourn and grieve and discover feelings they can’t admit aloud. A sense of duty drives another to believe in aliens, at least for a while. Some of their behavior is simply laughable, other flirts with death, and the rest ranges from dangerous to near heroic. These characters vary widely, yet all have in common that they live in or come from West Texas, where spaces are wider and tolerance for strangeness seems just a bit greater. Whether readers agree these characters are nowhere near crazy, they may admit they all are doing what humans do—what makes sense to them at the time.

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Praise for Nowhere Near:

“Teddy Jones writes about plainspoken people whose lives are entangled and wrought and marked by routine—routines they cherish, routines they wish to escape—and who glimpse, now and again, a sense of something beyond their ability to reason. The stories in Nowhere Near are deep, honest, and unsentimental, and they pierce you to the bone.—Robert Boswell, author of Tumbledown & The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards

There’s so much goodness in these stories, the kind of goodness that grows out of characters who endure hard lessons leading them to revelations and deep understanding. You’ll find real people here, with real heartaches and mistakes and regrets. With language as true as music, a steady and perceptive eye, and at times a blazing humor, Teddy Jones creates fully imagined and realized worlds. Subtly, she makes strangeness ordinary and the ordinary strange. You will recognize the people in this book the way you recognize your own neighbors and friends and co-workers and family: full of annoying quirks and surprises and, finally, a saving grace.”—Eleanor Morse, author of White Dog Fell From the Sky

“Teddy Jones is the real deal. With her characteristic wit and goodhearted characters, Jones draws a bead on West Texas life as it’s currently lived. Her precise ear for the rhythms of life and language guides the reader confidently from dry land farming to the double life of dreams and secrets. These stories stuck with me and left me wanting more.” –Summer Wood, author of Raising Wrecker

Excerpt from “Between Us,” a short story in Nowhere Near by Teddy Jones

Author’s note: I tend to resist writing (and reading) stories in which the protagonist is a writer. For some reason they often strike me as tales of the misery some attribute to choosing to be writers. They belong in the same category for me as victim memoirs—perhaps therapeutic for the writer, but not entertaining to me. But this woman spoke to me and said to tell her story.

One hundred seventeen. Another record! Until now, the greatest number of new emails for a single day on her Gia Caraway fan site had been sixty-nine. That was three years ago when her third book came out. The writer, subject of the fans’ interest, wasn’t the only one who kept up with the numbers. Her editor had administrative access to her website and could see the incoming mail and Jean’s responses. Occasionally the editor furnished Jean, who used the pseudonym Gia, a report that showed the number of views of her website correlated with sales of her print and e-books. Website views demonstrated a weakly positive correlation with sales. Fan e-mail numbers correlated strongly with sales.

Plus, now that Jean’s publisher supplied a person to tend to her social media presence, the reports also contained far more than she cared to know about the number of page views, likes, and followers for her author pages and/or her books on Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, Amazon, Instagram, and Twitter. For all she knew, her editor, Audra Camp, could also document a running inventory of the contents of Jean’s underwear drawer. 

What Audra didn’t know was that Jean was as much a fabrication as Gia. Johnnie Lyn Berry had created Jean Barlow just as surely as she had birthed Gia Caraway. Jean dealt with the editor, signed contracts, owned a telephone and a bank account of her own, had a g-mail address and a social security number, and employed her own accountant. Gia, whose name stood in bold print on more than 400,000 copies of paperbacks and electronic books, had no time for those details. She lived an exciting life that her fans were certain was the source of the erotic, romantic escapades her heroines enjoyed.

If Johnnie Lyn hadn’t done another smart thing in her life, deciding to create Jean qualified. Johnnie Lyn thought of Jean as the buffer who represented her in the world of romance fiction. Since the amazing numbers of sales of her first book with the publisher, Jean had complied with all of Audra’s wishes, accepted all her guidance. Audra used the words “guiding your career development.” Jean thought about Trilby and Svengali.

So far, the only disagreement between her and her editor had been about having a social media person at the publishing house respond to her fan mail. Jean preferred to do that herself. …..So here she was, at nine o’clock on a perfectly beautiful Monday evening in June, 2011, sitting in her writing room, dealing with fan mail. She should be outside enjoying the West Texas sunset. The first one she opened said, “Dear Gia, I’m sixty-two this year and have read every one of your books since the first. You’ve outdone yourself with this eleventh one. I love that you’re telling MY story without our ever having met. I don’t know how you do it, but it’s clear to me that somehow you know about the adventures I had in my earlier days. I often said I should write an autobiography. Thanks to you, honey, I don’t need to. Keep up the good work. Your fan always, Carla in Ft. Worth.” 

This wasn’t the first fan who was certain she was the subject of Gia’s novels. Her template file held a response which she quickly personalized, assuring Carla in Ft. Worth that it was all fiction and congratulating her on having led such an interesting life.

The next email in the queue replaced Jean’s smile with a wrinkle between her eyebrows. Not fan mail, it was from Audra, who usually wrote to her Jean Barlow email address, or just called Jean’s phone. (Gia didn’t have a phone.) This email, here in Gia’s fan mail, was flagged High Priority—in red letters.

It didn’t even begin with Audra’s usual gushy greeting Dearest Jean, my star of stars. This one opened with Jean, This is important for both of us.

Jean scanned the first paragraph. Her publishing company had wangled a spot on the program at a romance fiction conference coming up in San Antonio in September. It was to be a huge event, bringing together fans and authors—presentations for writers on the first day, the next day open to fans, also. THINK STAR TREK CONVENTION! THINK SALES OPPORTUNITIES!! Audra had been assigned, as Editorial Director of Body Heat, the company’s line of erotic romances, to make a major presentation. 

Gia didn’t attend conferences and neither did Jean, ever.

Teddy Jones has been a nurse, nurse practitioner, university professor, college dean, and occasional farmhand. She grew up in a small north Texas town, Iowa Park, and gained college degrees in nursing at Incarnate Word and University of Texas, a Ph.D. in Education at University of Texas at Austin, and an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. She held nursing, teaching, and administrative positions in Austin, Denver, and Lubbock and as a family nurse practitioner in Texas and New Mexico. Writing fiction was her “when I know enough and have the time” dream all those years. Now she and her husband live near Friona, in the Texas Panhandle, where her husband farms and she writes full time.

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FIVE WINNERS!

One Grand Prize: Signed copies of both Nowhere Near and Jackson’s Pond, Texas, set of 10 hollyhock notecards, and a 11×15 print of the cover art from Jackson’s Pond.

1st Runner-Up: Signed copy of Nowhere Near + choice of notecards or print

Next Three Winners: choice of notecards or print

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  May 11-20, 2017 

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