Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday Freebie: Stay Up With Me by Tom Barbash, Train Shots by Vanessa Blakeslee, and Songs for the Deaf by John Henry Fleming

Congratulations to Emma Cazabonne, winner of last week’s Friday Freebie: I Always Loved You by Robin Oliveira.

This week’s book giveaway is a special contest in honor of National Short Story Month.  One lucky winner will receive a paperback copy of three new collections of short fiction: Stay Up With Me by Tom Barbash, Train Shots by Vanessa Blakeslee, and Songs for the Deaf by John Henry Fleming.  Here’s a little more about the books from the publishers’ jacket copy:

The stories in Tom Barbash’s wondrous and evocative collection Stay Up With Me explore the myriad ways we try to connect with one another and with the sometimes cruel world around us.  The newly-single mother in “The Break” interferes in her son’s love life over his Christmas vacation from college.  The anxious young man in “Balloon Night” persists in hosting his and his wife’s annual watch-the-Macy’s-Thanksgiving-Day-Parade-floats-be-inflated party while trying to keep the myth of his marriage equally afloat.  “Somebody’s Son” tells the story of a young man guiltily conning an elderly couple out of their home in the Adirondacks, and the narrator in “The Women” watches his widowed father become the toast of Manhattan's midlife dating scene, as he struggles to find his own footing in life.  The characters in Stay Up with Me find new truths when the old ones have given out or shifted course.  In the tradition of classic story writers like John Cheever and Tobias Wolff, Barbash laces his narratives with sharp humor, psychological acuity, and pathos, creating deeply resonant and engaging stories that pierce the heart and linger in the imagination.  “Barbash is a true craftsman who sweats over every sentence, and that artistry makes you want to read the next story…These characters…really aren’t like the rest of us, except--and this is the crucial part, this is why Barbash is worth reading--they hurt in precisely the same way we do…”  (New York Times Book Review)

In Train Shots, a single mother rents a fundamentalist preacher’s carriage house.  A pop star contemplates suicide in the hotel where Janis Joplin died.  A philandering ex-pat doctor gets hooked on morphine while reeling from his wife’s death.  And in the title story, a train engineer, after running over a young girl on his tracks, grapples with the pervasive question--what propels a life toward such a disastrous end?  Rendered in a style both generous and intelligent, the men and women at the center of these subtle stories are driven by their unusual predicaments and preoccupations.  Rife with dark humor, Vanessa Blakeslee’s debut story collection illuminates the idiosyncratic and the mundane in energetic, bristling prose that marks the arrival of a powerful new voice.  Here’s what John Dufresne, author of No Regrets, Coyote, had to say about Train Shots: “Evidently, Vanessa Blakeslee was somebody’s big secret until now.  I just don’t know how they kept her from us or why they would.  No one writes this good the first time out, do they?  Train Shots is more than a promising first collection by a formidably talented writer; it is a haunting story collection of the first order.  I was flat knocked out.  Blakeslee’s range and confidence are astonishing.  I can’t forget these beguiling and unsparing stories and I don’t want to.  They are exhilarating to read; some are breathtaking and achingly beautiful, others will keep you up at night.  When I finished Train Shots, I walked around for days seeing the world through its lens.  Do yourself a favor, buy this book, get in on the secret before everyone else knows what you soon will: here is the future of contemporary fiction.”

In Songs for the Deaf, a little desert town gets a sexual charge from a crash-landed alien.  A dysfunctional family tries to summit Everest with “discount Sherpas” and yakloads of emotional baggage.  A teen messiah emerges from a game of 3-on-3.  The stories in John Henry Fleming’s Songs for the Deaf, the first story collection by the “marvelously inventive” and “winningly satiric” author of The Legend of the Barefoot Mailman, put an intimate and modern spin on the American tall tale.  The title story, “Songs for the Deaf,” detailing the codependency between a kid with an amazing voice and the people of his rural town, slowly spirals into the absurd.  In “Chomolungma,” readers meet a family climbing Mount Everest in the care of discount Sherpas, providing the husband with revenge for a highly public indiscretion by his resentful wife.  “The History of War in Three Parts” is a crushing polemic against dictatorship and war and the devastation both bring to human lives.  “Songs for the Deaf is a joyful, deranged, endlessly surprising book of stories that defy easy categorization, in addition to the laws of physics (girls 'ride air,' aliens plummet from the sky, a basketball-messiah shoots hoops).  Fleming's prose is glorious music; his rhythms will get into your bloodstream, and his images will sink into your dreams.”  (Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia! and Vampires in the Lemon Grove)

If you’d like a chance at winning copies of Stay Up With Me, Train Shots and Songs for the Deaf, simply email your name and mailing address to

Put FRIDAY FREEBIE in the e-mail subject line.  One entry per person, please.  Despite its name, the Friday Freebie runs all week long and remains open to entries until midnight on May 22, at which time I’ll draw the winning name.  I’ll announce the lucky reader on May 23.  If you’d like to join the mailing list for the once-a-week newsletter, simply add the words “Sign me up for the newsletter” in the body of your email.  Your email address and other personal information will never be sold or given to a third party (except in those instances where the publisher requires a mailing address for sending Friday Freebie winners copies of the book).

Want to double your odds of winning?  Get an extra entry in the contest by posting a link to this webpage on your blog, your Facebook wall or by tweeting it on Twitter.  Once you’ve done any of those things, send me an additional e-mail saying “I’ve shared” and I’ll put your name in the hat twice.

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