Naima's Published Titles

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Amazing, Underrated Anne Brontë

Anne Brontë
I'm almost done reading The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, written by the youngest of the three famous Brontë sisters. Her work has survived under the shadow of Emily's and Charlotte's bestsellers, Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, respectively. What I find truly fascinating (and tragic) is that her obscurity resulted directly from her sister's betrayal and the fact that, during her lifetime, she had to defend her writing to the world. That is such a shame. Of the three books -- Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall -- Anne's is the one that modern women can find most relatable. Over a century after it was barred from reprinting, the story still feels fresh and real.

The novel's focus is Helen, a woman who married Arthur Huntingdon, a handsome bad boy who swept her off her feet. Although she sensed his effusive passion for her was all on the surface, she hoped for the best. Arthur's shallow nature, innate cruelty, and self-centeredness creep into the new marriage but really shift into hyperdrive once a season of London debauchery and raging alcoholism kill his infatuation for his wife. The birth of a son only pisses him off more; it takes her attention away from him and besides, he can't possibly love the baby till it's old enough to show some love for him. It gets worse, not in the explosive gory way of a Stephen King novel, but in incremental stages from disappointment to despair and then desperation.

Charlotte Brontë wrote of Wildfell Hall, "it hardly appears to me desirable to preserve. The choice of subject in that work is a mistake, it was too little consonant with the character, tastes and ideas of the gentle, retiring inexperienced writer." The public was so openly derisive of the novel's plot that for its second printing, Anne wrote a lengthy defense of it as a forward. Yet Wildfell Hall was a runaway bestseller, sold out six weeks after its debut. Hmmm ...why was that?

Could it be that readers secretly felt Anne Brontë had spoken directly to them? Women had no legal rights as individuals. A bad marriage was for most an inescapable trap. Acknowledging this reality not only challenged the assumption that a woman's rightful and most exalted state was that of matrimony, it challenged British law. We have many options today, but once you reach a certain age, you've probably had the chance to feel dismay at realizing a man (or woman) you love is not worthy of it. You may have struggled to eke out some sanity and peace in a chaotic home ruled by your partner's unchecked addiction. You may have thought you could help your loved one become a better person over time. You may have singlehandedly tried to save the relationship by being perfect. You may have secretly started planning an exit strategy for yourself and your children. This was the situation around which Anne Brontë wove her plot. And she sure paid for it. After Anne's death in 1849, Charlotte Brontë refused to allow republication of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights catapulted Emily and Charlotte to literary immortality. Anne became a footnote.

Consider yourself vindicated, sister.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

I'm a Kindle Bestseller!

It's Official! The Entrepreneur is an Amazon Kindle Bestseller in the category of Horror Anthologies. It's a bloody sick little tale and I'm proud I thought of it.

A star pupil teams with the problem student on a business class project. But there’s more to this pairing than meets the eye, and soon the project is successful beyond their instructor’s wildest nightmares. There’s a market for anything, and demand can barely keep up with supply.

At 3,000 words and .99 cents, The Entrepreneur will creep you out for little money down and no time at all. (Available in non-kindle formats at Smashwords.)

I'm so dang happy :)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Painting to Write

This time in Juicy Writing, Sharon reminded us that sometimes we work too hard. Tonight, instead of doing writing exercises, we would paint. I came into the session stressed and left completely relaxed. This is my painting you see here. 

I am a classic Type A. As fulfilling as writing and self-publishing are, I get really wound around the axle. I get really obsessive. I wake up every morning with an aching jaw from grinding my teeth and with my head a mental teleprompter endlessly scrolling a list of publishing tasks. I have to remind myself sometimes that I already have one stressful job. I did not choose to pursue my writing muse to give myself a second stressful job. It is precisely at those times when playing is just what my writing needs. 

To understand how this works, I recommend the book My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D. She suffered a massive stroke to her left hemisphere and lived with only her right during the first long stretch of her recovery. What she unexpectedly found was bliss. She lost her ego, lost her agenda, lost the concept of linear time, lost her need to be top dog, lost even her sense of physical separateness. Without these qualifiers, she felt constant love and joy. As she regained use of her left hemisphere, she had to develop mental habits that disciplined her left's dominant tendencies so that she could maintain inner peace.

One of the ways I maintain balance is through creative play, like painting. For you it may be throwing pots on a wheel or playing a round of golf before noon while the air is still fresh and cool. Something that absorbs your attention and brings you into Now. Something that has nothing riding on the outcome. This transfers your mental energy from the left hemisphere of your brain, which collects data and makes predictions based on its findings, to the right hemisphere, where creativity reigns and anything is considered possible. As writers, we need both hemispheres working in partnership, but for many of us left is dominant and really stifles right. So let Right out for a frolicsome run!

If you're interested in something like I do, you might check out Sharon's websites, and She's starting an online series of classes soon. Throughout the next year, she plans to branch out into a number of intuitive and creative subjects. Her newsletter will keep you informed as these opportunities arise.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

What I Know About Kindle Singles

I hoped to get my Demontorium short stories into the Amazon marketplace as Kindle Singles. The Kindle Singles store is smaller than the Kindle universe. I'd have a chance to be more prominent right off the bat. Finding no info on the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) pages, I Googled. I reached  the January 26 Amazon Kindle Singles press release, a first-hand Singles submissions experience on ZdNet, a Facebook post on the subject from Steve Lewis, self-publishing guru and author of the Taleist blog, and the Submissions Guidelines right on Amazon's Singles bookstore page. First a word on what a Kindle Single is, as described in the press release:

"... each Kindle Single is intended to allow a single killer idea -- well researched, well argued and well illustrated -- to be expressed at its natural length. Available to both Kindle device and app users, and priced between $0.99 and $4.99, the first set of Kindle Singles include original reporting, essays, memoirs and fiction."

Here's what else I learned:

  • Amazon's editors review your manuscript submission, just like a traditional publisher would. It's not a direct publishing option.
  • The permitted word count is 5,000 - 30,000 words. This leaves my short stories out. My longest, The Entrepreneur, is just over 3,000 words.
  • If accepted, your Kindle Single royalty can earn you 70%, even at a price point below $2.99. This is different from the KDP experience, where a price point below $2.99 rates a 35% royalty.
This is a good opportunity for writers, especially journalists who long to expand a topic beyond the amount of space usually alotted for their work. I say this because I believe readers look specifically for fiction they can read in the pockets of downtime available -- on a train commute, for instance.  However, authors on the KDP Community forum have expressed some confusion and frustration with the Singles process regarding such things as 1) longer than expected wait times for news of acceptance/rejection and 2) the perceived quality of accepted and published Singles. It seems Amazon is working itself into a space previously monopolized by traditional print publishers and the receiving end feels pretty much the same to authors.

I hope you can take this info farther than I can. The 5,000 word minimum rules me out, so for now, as we say in the South (US), "I don't have a dog in the race".