Happy Book Birthday: Train Shots by Vanessa Blakeslee

Congrats are in order for Vanessa Blakeslee, whose collection of short stories, Train Shots, was released today by Burrow Press!

Vanessa is one of the great writers I met in Key West during KWLS 2012. It’s exciting to see so many of the crew from that year with books out. This is the fourth, I believe, if I haven’t missed anyone, with Eric Sasson having a novel forthcoming too. Truly exceptional work.

Here’s the jacket copy for 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.

Congrats, Vanessa!

Happy Book Birthday [Belated]: The Dark Corner

I’m checking in a little late here, but I still wanted to sincerely congratulate Mark Powell on the publication of his latest novel, The Dark Corner. Way to go, Mark!

Mark and I met in Key West last winter at the 2012 Key West Literary Seminar when we were part of the same Robert Stone-led workshop. (We also were housemates in this old pink house.) I very much enjoyed working with Mark then, and it’s no surprise that The Dark Corner is a great book.

Here’s the jacket copy:

A troubled Episcopal priest and would-be activist, Malcolm Walker has failed twice over—first in an effort to shock his New England congregants out of their complacency and second in an attempt at suicide. Discharged from the hospital and haunted by images of the Iraq War and Abu Ghraib, he heads home to the mountains of northwestern South Carolina, the state’s “dark corner,” where a gathering storm of private grief and public rage awaits him.
    Malcolm’s life soon converges with people as damaged in their own ways as he is: his older brother, Dallas, a onetime college football star who has made a comfortable living in real-estate development but is now being drawn ever more deeply into an extremist militia; his dying father, Elijah, still plagued by traumatic memories of Vietnam and the death of his wife; and Jordan Taylor, a young, drug-addicted woman who is being ruthlessly exploited by Dallas’s viperous business partner, Leighton Clatter. As Malcolm tries to restart his life, he enters into a relationship with Jordan that offers both of them fleeting glimpses of heaven, even as hellish realities continue to threaten them.

The Dark Corner is one of three books written by people I lived with and/or workshopped with at KWLS that came out last year. That I know of, anyway. (You should also check out Eric Sasson’s Margins of Tolerance and Jill Koenigsdorf’s Phoebe and the Ghost of Chagall.) Not too shabby. The folks down at the KWLS, in addition to bringing together a large group of talented writers, the famous and the yet-to-be-famous, always put on a great program. For 2014, the program is titled The Dark Side: Mystery, Crime & the Literary Thriller.

Happy Book Release Day: Margins of Tolerance

Congrats to Eric Sasson, whose book Margins of Tolerance is officially available today from Livingston Press!

Here’s more about the book

Margins of Tolerance focuses on gay men in flux traveling, in transit, or at a crossroads in their lives, seeking to understand their place in the ever-changing landscape of gay identity. This collection also focuses on loyalty and betrayal: between gay lovers, among the gay community itself, and lastly between the gay community and the at-large heterosexual community.

You can read more about Eric, his work, and how his book came to be, at his blog, All Things Sassy.

Way to go, Eric! Congrats!