The nice people at InfinityPlus have re-issued my novella In Springdale Town as an ebook. It’s available at Amazon in the US, Amazon UK, and in a multitude of formats at Smashwords.
This edition includes a new afterword, with newly-revealed secrets about the making of the story.
Here’s what people said about the PS print edition, which came out in 2003:
Springdale is told in a deceptively muted style and cunningly crafted so that the story appears to assemble itself around the reader like a trap he or she has sprung, yet remains innocent-looking until the end, when a spring-loaded hammer smashes down.—Lucius Shepard, from the introduction to the original print edition
…In a list comprising some of the biggest names in contemporary genre fiction the appearance of a novella by a virtually unknown author causes a certain interest. In Springdale Town represents its author’s first book publication (after only a handful of short stories) and yet it fits into the PS Publishing list with such subtle skill that its presence on the shelf feels as if an invisible gap in the collection has been suddenly filled.—Lavie Tidhar, Dusksite
…Other writers, wiry and wry, as lithe as dragonflies, may seem more vulnerable, but their grace, their maneuverability, becomes its own kind of tensile strength. They can travel farther, faster, and in disguise.—Jeff VanderMeer, Locus Online
…no need for Lovecraftian monsters or rampaging serial killers to transform Springdale into a seriously creepy place. An old ballad suggests that one death haunts this village, but Wexler deviously, almost casually, creates a sense of wrongness that goes well beyond some past saga of jealousy and murder. Don’t read this one right before bedtime–or your next road trip.”—Faren Miller, Locus Magazine
I checked my friend Christopher Cook’s blog/website today and remembered that I had meant to post a link to it when he set it up. His novel, Robbers, came out from Carroll & Graf in 2000, and he re-issued it himself as an ebook, along with several other titles.
I met Christopher at a writer’s workshop in Tennessee in 1993, where we discovered that we were both living in Austin. We hung out some after we got back to town. The year after, he moved to France. Since then he’s lived in Mexico and now Prague. And I moved on to New York, Massachusetts, and Ohio. I haven’t seen him since he left Austin. One of these days, I’ll make it to Prague. It’s always nice to have friends in interesting places.
Robbers is a noir set in East Texas. In it, he did something unusual (spoiler!). Halfway through, he killed off a very sympathetic character (which is all I can say here without spoiling it for you). The reader in me said No! How could you? The writer in me said, wow, that’s cool. I read this when it came out…an unthinkable twelve years ago…but much is still clear in my head, the grit, the well-drawn characters, the feel of the East Texas woods and the Gulf Coast.
Check out Christopher’s blog here, and buy some books.
During my current research I came across a reference to a book on the history of Victoria, TX that came out in 1883 and was reprinted in 1961 (as History of Victoria County;: A republishing of the book known as V. Rose’s History of Victoria). I requested the book through inter-library loan. The title page said that the reprint was edited by JW Petty and published by The Book Mart, Victoria, TX 1961. At the end of the editor’s preface there’s an inscription from him, to the Texas Tech library (which isn’t where the book came from).
When I saw the title page, I remembered… In his youth, my father frequented a used bookstore in Houston owned by a man named Joe Petty. They got to be friends. He still has many books from Petty’s store. Later on, Joe Petty moved the store to Victoria. Here’s a link to a story on him in the Victoria Advocate from 1956.
The book has been useful, with facts about Victoria, like the number of banks and various stores. Also the racial and social attitudes of the author, Victor Rose. Also, I like how my research/writing obsessions intersected with a bit of family history.
Over at Book View Cafe, Nancy Jane Moore has an interesting post on Annie Murphy Paul’s article and other related research by Keith Oatley and Raymond Mar.
As a book designer, I would be curious to see a study that looks at good writing with a good page design vs. good writing with a poor design, and bad writing with a good design vs. bad writing with a poor design. Yes, good writing is subjective. I would have to be in charge of making that distinction.
It turns out that reading fiction is actually good for you. Not that I didn’t already believe that, but I’ve met plenty of people who don’t read fiction, because they say they only want to read real things. This piece by Annie Murphy Paul in the New York Times discusses some recent research into the imagery of fiction and its effect on the brain.
Paul quotes Dr. Keith Oatley, professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto and a novelist (including The Case of Emily V, a mystery that involves Sigmund Freud and Sherlock Holmes). According to Oatley, fiction “is a particularly useful simulation because negotiating the social world effectively is extremely tricky, requiring us to weigh up myriad interacting instances of cause and effect. Just as computer simulations can help us get to grips with complex problems such as flying a plane or forecasting the weather, so novels, stories and dramas can help us understand the complexities of social life.”
Paul mentions Oatley and other authors of various studies. When I looked up Oatley I discovered that he has a book from August 2011 on the same subject: Such Stuff as Dreams: The Psychology of Fiction, which is described as exploring “how fiction works in the brains and imagination of both readers and writers.”
I find it odd that Paul’s piece failed to mention Oatley’s book. I don’t know what that omission means (most likely nothing), but it bugs me. It distracted me from the making of a simple blog post on an interesting subject, sending me off into myriad speculations, none of which are worth noting in this post.
Here’s a group blog that Oatley participates in: OnFiction: An Online Magazine on the Psychology of Fiction, which I will look at more thoroughly when I get a chance, and I’m curious to read his book.
I hope the findings of Oatley and other researchers will encourage more people to attempt the reading of fiction. It will help your brain.
I liked this piece on Bookslut by Greer Mansfield about the fiction of Sheridan Le Fanu, M.R. James, and Robert Aickman. I haven’t read much Le Fanu or James. In fact, I didn’t even realize that I own a copy of Le Fanu’s collection, Madam Crowl’s Ghost and other stories. Which I obviously need to read soon.
Here’s something Mansfield said about Aickman, which I would have said in my Aickman post if I had thought of it:
Aickman never spells out his meaning. His stories end abruptly and inconclusively, and in fact the “meaning” is less important than the utter mysteriousness of what happens. Like a true poem or a vivid dream, Aickman’s stories hover on the edge of being understood, but never quite are. They are meant to be listened to and wondered at, and their mystery grows stronger the more one puzzles over them
And an interesting interview at The Center for Fiction with a writer I’m unfamiliar with named Steve Almond. I like his attitude toward big publishing and the need for doing it yourself sometimes but not all the time. Some good bits like this:
That’s the fundamental design flaw in the publishing industry: It pairs an artist with a corporation. Occasionally, this produces a great piece of art that makes all parties involved dough. More often, a literary book loses money—all but one of mine have—and the writer winds up feeling like a loser because his piece of art didn’t move more units. That’s a pretty crazy way to measure success.
Circus came out in hardback from Prime Books in 2004. Locus Magazine called it “a fascinating, deeply bizarre adventure.” Jane Andrews gave us permission to re-use her way cool painting “Moving On” for the cover.