13 Years

I’ve been blogging for, um, a while. I guess it’s even longer if you count my manually updated website from 2001, but let’s call it 13 years since that’s what I have archives of.

Every year when I have to pay my hosting fees and renew my domain names I think about throwing it all out and starting over, but I don’t like the throwing it all out part, however appealing a fresh start may be. So I keep plodding along, blogging less and less frequently. It’s bumming me out.

This is not a farewell post. I intend to keep blogging. But.

I am also starting a new thing. I’ve signed up for TinyLetter and am sending out emails about writing. (P.S. I am writing again.) If you’d like to get those emails, sign up here: tinyletter.com/noirbettie

xxoo
me

We Are Unable To Pay Authors At This Time.

Dear Editors,

I am unable to submit to you at this time.

I spent four hours working on a story that spilled from my fingers as though they were suddenly possessed. I typed through countless distractions as this story forced its way out of me. My daughter interrupted me every four minutes the entire time I was working. That probably sounds like an exaggeration. I will be honest with you: it was probably more frequent than that.

I don’t have any lack of ideas. But it takes a long time for me to figure out how to tell a story. Once I edited a story for at least five years before I realized it needed to be switched to present tense if it was ever going to work. This one, though? Less than a week from inspiration to draft. I’m not sure that’s ever happened before. It really was like something had taken over my body.

When I was done, I felt like I was worth something for the first time in four years, which is coincidentally how long it’s been since the last time I wrote a story.
You cannot have my self-worth in exchange for a contributor copy.

Yours Sincerely,
Annika Barranti Klein

I wrote this last fall, and am reminded of it as I look for markets to publish the story I refer to. The options are awful. It is astonishing how many people seem to think it is okay to build a business based on a product they do not value.

Shirley

On Saturday, Shirley Jackson will have been dead for 50 years. (Next year will be her 100th birthday. She was 48 when she died.)

I may have mentioned once or twice that I am a bit of a fan. I spent the entirety of 1998 and 1999 collecting her mostly out-of-print (at the time) novels and short story collections.

(I never managed to get my hands on a copy of The Sundial, but it has been re-released so I suppose I might pick it up eventually. I’ve read it, because libraries, and it wasn’t my favorite of her books–which isn’t saying much since it’s still better than 99% of all other published fiction.)

Today is the release date of a collection of previously unpublished works, collected by two of her children (Laurie and Sally) from her archives in the Library of Congress.

I am not the only one who loves Shirley. I couldn’t be, though some small, immature part of me wishes I were.

This is what I’m reading today, as I wait for my copy of Let Me Tell You to arrive.

A Misandrist Book Club Review of Shirley Jackson’s “We Have Always Lived in the Castle” by Maddie Howard at XO Jane

Shirley and Me by Benjamin Dreyer at The Toast

The Man In The Woods by Shirley Jackson (previously unpublished short story) at The New Yorker

This Week In Fiction: An interview with Shirley Jackson’s son Laurence Jackson Hyman by Cressida Leyshon at The New Yorker

Memory and Delusion by Shirley Jackson (previously unpublished essay on writing) at The New Yorker

The Haunting of Shirley Jackson by David Barnett at The Independent

This is now a birthday log.

I have too much stuff to blog about so I am blogging about none of it. BUT! Today is the 37th birthday of my favorite person!

Happy Birthday, Katherine, with love from me, Will, the kids, and these guys (whom I googled, and hope are the right guys):

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Nine

Sam is nine years old.

He is gangly and sweet-looking, with large front teeth and floppy hair. He likes to wear oversized t-shirts, and pulls his pants and socks up as high as they’ll go, like an old man.

His favorite color is yellow. His favorite superhero is Spider-Man, who he plays twice a month in our tabletop Marvel Super Heroes game, and as frequently as possible on his DS and the Wii U.

Lately he stays up later and later, partly because the days are longer and partly because he so obviously cherishes every minute he can steal with Will. It doesn’t hurt that we frequently watch television after the children are (supposed to be) in bed.

He is still in speech therapy. I have no concept how he sounds to people who aren’t used to him, but I think his speech is mostly normal now, with some funny quirks. For instance, he uses “about” as an all-purpose word, sometimes appropriately and often not. (Interestingly, Grace does this with “even.” She does not have any speech disorders.)

He is a voracious reader, though he still only reads words that are accompanied by pictures. We have a huge comic book and graphic novel collection that is growing regularly. It turns out that there have been graphic adaptations of several of my favorite novels, including The Little Prince and A Wrinkle In Time (both of which he got for his birthday).

He loves strategy games and is a wizard at Chess and Stratego.

He is largely uninterested in kids his own age, which worries me sometimes. But then I think of myself at nine, and I was exactly the same. Adults make better friends. But I need him to learn to be a good friend himself, so I still worry.

He can be self-centered and clueless, and doesn’t listen when he is lost in his own world, which is often.

But he also cares deeply and loves freely and strongly. I know he will be a good man someday.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Normally, this is the time of year when we finally have some fucking light in our apartment, which is dark as hell from September to April (approximately). This year, though, we’re having mysterious waterfall from the skies, accompanied by grey clouds and a distinct lack of daylight.

We need the rain, so I am trying not to complain about it, but not only is my apartment so dark I had to turn on every single light just to read a comic book (I guess I could find/borrow Will’s headlamp), but I also have been congested as hell and yesterday I had a sinus headache so bad that I asked Will to come home early and I took a two hour nap at dinner time, then slept normal hours.

June gloom is just around the corner, that strange time of year when it’s overcast every day for a month for no reason (or probably for some reason, but I don’t know what it is), so maybe it’s kinder for May to be gloomy too.

Maybe I should get my own headlamp.

Kara mia

When we were kids, my sisters and I watched the 1984 Supergirl movie…not a small number of times. Several. More than a few. We loved it.

It was, in fact, the only female superhero movie we could watch. I don’t know if we realized that. There have only been five since. (But we’re on Spider-Man movie seven!) There are two more in development–Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel–but first there will be a Supergirl TV show.

Do you have six minutes and a hanky?

I watched this with Grace, who did not understand why I was sobbing so hard. And that was before I read that Helen Slater (Supergirl from the movie) is playing Kara’s mother. It’s on imdb, so it’s not verified, but a freeze frame at 27 seconds looks pretty good.

Oh, my fangirl heart.

In Which I Spend Too Much Money

On Thursday I made my mechanic laugh when I called him and said my car was making an “alarming noise.” On Friday I paid $236 for new brake pads and rotors. He showed me the old ones, worn bare; it was terrifying. Since we didn’t actually have $236, groceries are going to be super interesting for the next few weeks.

Then Saturday was Free Comic Book Day.

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Sam paid for most of these (the non-free ones) with his own cash money, but I absolutely bought that Ms Marvel collection and an issue of Lil Gotham for Grace (who didn’t have any money). Since comic book stores pay for the free comics, it only seemed right to support House of Secrets.

And since I was on a roll, I went ahead and did this today:

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(The image is flipped, so you’re seeing what I see in the mirror. I think that’s pretty cool.)

And now I am going to stop spending money indefinitely.

Overthinking Character Names

I started a writing project that is set in 1880. I am still working on a lot of details but I’ve got a good idea of my main character, and I am trying to name her and the other important character. The problem? SSA baby name records begin in 1880. When they are already in their 30s or 40s.

If I assume that names generally cycled through every two generations, as they tend to now (people in my age group frequently name children after their grandparents, who tend to be born about 70 years before the baby in question), and if I also assume people had children earlier, then I might look to names being given to children 20-30 years after my story is set. Does that make sense?

Of course, then my preferred name for my heroine is nowhere to be found. Which doesn’t mean I can’t use it, but it bothers me.

The other thing I’d like to find is a breakdown of the immigrant population by nationality, to find names that perhaps were not popular on the SSA list but might have been common in particular areas. (I’ve read a lot of Willa Cather. I want to use names like Alexandra and Antonia. But, like, not those exact names.) Of course, I can’t find that information. I’m pretty sure it exists, but it’s not a quick google search away.

And finally. Let’s say you were naming a not-great husband in a western. You’d name him Frank, wouldn’t you? I thought so. Trying to come up with another one.