A concert of their own

Ben invited Nancy to lunch on his  unluckiest day.
His immediate boss had uttered a long list of reasons why he was being monitored. The conclusion of that list had been on word “underperformance.”
Daniel, the employee of the month, had sold three homes worth ten million. He on the other hand had sold one apartment and secured ten tenants. This was not good according to his boss. In his words, “we expect the best and this is not the best Benjamin. Your colleagues bring in investments greater than you and yet you earn the same basic salary. You need to do something about this. Consider it your first warning.”
He’d walked out of that office smiling.
No one was to see him frowning or sad about being lectured. If they knew he’d remind them that their commission depended on their sales. The employee of the month was proof of mismanagement of funds. He earned his commission and splashed it on his Mark Two car that never seemed to glide over a bump without a scrape.

So when he received Nancy’s text that she was busy, his heart went out to Njuguna’s pub right across the street from his house.
He sent her another text: it’s okay, later love.

He sat down and went to back work. He had a list of clients in his database that he would follow up on to gauge their commitment to the organization. He pulled out his calculator and keyed in the figures of his sales. He calculated his commission and sank in his chair. How could he have stayed here this long? He had wanted to start his own Real Estate Organization and resume school but somewhere between young single friends, readily available pubs and single women, his dream had faded into the background.
He was looking forward to having dinner instead with Nancy. They had been dating since January. In that time he’d learned that if she sent him a text he had to reply in under two minutes. If she talked about salon or somebody’s dress or perfume or weave he had to look at her and nod just like he did in his Comm skills class!

He also accepted that she was the mistress of disguise every time she visited the salon. His new skills included naming weaves, so far he knew Daniella, Isabella, and Sophia.

He left work an hour early to prepare for dinner. He dropped by The Green Restaurant and bought the best of their fried chicken curry and vegetable rice before stopping by Uchumi supermarket for some wine. Nancy loved the Four Cousins and he did not hesitate to get that.
He got home in time to pay Mama Flo for cleaning and dusting the place.

He then started setting up the house for that dinner taking his time because she’d be delayed due to the traffic.

Nancy knocked on his door at seven o’clock still in her grey office attire. She wore nothing but exhaustion and before Ben could speak she told him about the stupid traffic police who made the driver pullover and ignored them for thirty minutes. She couldn’t alight because the conductor could not return their money. The woman seated beside her chewed loudly. The driver turned on Classic FM and the station lived on repeating the same songs.
When she stopped she turned to him and asked, “I’m sorry, my day has been pathetic, how was your day?”
“My day was good love. I’m glad you’re here.”
“So, what are we having for supper?”
“Close your eyes for a minute, I know you are tired but tafadhali I promise it won’t take long.”

She closed her eyes and he turned on the lights and his music player. He walked to the middle of the room praying that she would believe in him because he did not at that moment. He was shaking when he said, “open your eyes Nancy.”
“Ben is that Mozart?”
“Yes, I know your dream is to attend one in New York, and I swear you are the only person I know who loves this kind of music, so I thought why not have our own concert here and now, just the two of us, and ask, will you marry me Nancy?”

“What? Ben, yes! Yes! I will marry you, and now I feel so stupid. I was all about my day but you had this prepared for me. Thank you sweetie, I love you. Wait till I show my friends!”
“Let’s eat then, so you really don’t mind this?”
“How many people listen to Mozart through their home theater system in Nairobi? Don’t you like how it fills the house?”
He didn’t but she did and in that moment, Ben and Nancy loved each other in their own little concert.

Other stories you’ll love:

Mira’s Love Affair 2

For those about to rock, We salute you

The pain that is revising a manuscript with an Editor.

Revising a book you’ve written is tough.

It’s frustrating especially when you have an Editor who is keen on questioning not every word but every scene and character as though you were in some CSI show trying to solve a murder! I am frustrated. However,other Writers have been through this and working with an Editor is like seeing your work in a new way. You hate it and love it at the same time but most of the time you are definitely choking your Editor in your head.

Looking back at book two in the Currents Series, I came across some bits of dialogue that reminded me of why I was writing this series.

Pepper is pepper no matter how much you overcook it.

He is like a dog, just like you say, but the dog is the only beast that you will pelt with stones but it will never leave you. His acts resemble madness but remember that the man who is mad is not so without a reason.

The river is never in a hurry to get to the lake, but when it rains, it flows and takes everything to the bottom of the lake with it.

The one who has crossed the river knows where to step

Ai, it is a curse my boy. i use my tongue but the people who witness its use never have ears.

I have given myself one week to complete the revision of book three which is titled Wind and get started on the final book called Earth- and then after that…well, who knows a lot can happen in between Earth and my next writing project.

Books I read this past week.

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From a retelling of Beauty and Beast in Depravity by M. J. Hagg to an awkward guy, cute if not extremely nervous around girls in The Last Seeker: Tristen my week has been great!
If you could have any super power which one would you choose?
Now, with ‘The Last Seeker,’ Tristen does have an awesome power but how he comes to learn of it makes it fun to read this book.

I also stayed up all night yesterday reading  Fearsome by S. A. Wolfe who introduced me to two handsome brothers; Dylan (who has Bipolar) and Carson (who is always grouchy and scowling). Fearsome though is part of a series each book serves as a stand alone which makes reading this romance quite okay…

I would however love to read “A Trail of Broken Wings” by Sejal Badani.
I tried the sample on kindle and I find myself drawn to the story, so am probably buying it this weekend after I finish reading most of the ebooks I downloaded.
Aside from all that, my week has been wonderful and I hope to read some more books on between my breaks.

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Lupita Nyong’o Lands Second Vogue Cover

Beautiful 🙂

GOOD BLACK NEWS

The dazzling Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o samples the fall couture collections and talks to Plum Sykes about fame, family, and her four new acting projects.

It’s the Monday morning of Paris Couture Week, and Lupita Nyong’o appears, right on time, from the elevator of Le Bristol hotel. Never mind that she’s come direct from a trip to her native Kenya, which she just happened to combine with an elephant-saving mission. Or that her flight landed only a few hours ago. Or that all her bags were lost en route. She is wearing a dramatically sculpted scarlet Dior minidress, her short hair is teased into a halo and held off her face with an Alice band, and her beautiful skin gleams with health. As she bounces into the lobby, her mirrored, blue-tinted Dior sunglasses reflect a roomful of transfixed…

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Dear Michael

East Africa Friday Feature Prompt: The mystic woods. What story do you see here?

This one’s for my friend. I pray you and your husband will heal.

I find myself in between words written using this blue pen on this white piece of paper. You left for work today at 5:30 in the morning. You looked at me, stretched your hand to stroke my head but withdrew it as though I was a baby who could cause mayhem with just one touch. You dressed in the bathroom and left without taking tea or even writing me a note. You live as though I am a minefield and you’re the Wanderer who has to make it through without losing a leg or an arm.
See, I noticed, not because I wanted to but because I could not sleep. I have not slept in a week and you think the medicine that doctor prescribed helps but it does not. I want us to talk and sit before the TV talking about La Malquerida with you pretending to follow when you are clearly bored. I want you to look at me like you did before the voices started filling my head.

It’s always the voices.

I can hear them and they are always coming after me. Where were you Michael? Where were you when they insisted I  follow them through those woods? Where were you when  I fell and had to cry out for help as they looked at each other wondering what to do?
Where were you when she flowed out of me like she could not stand the filth that  was within me? Where were you when the doctor had to say, “I am sorry for your loss,” reading from the script of her career as though those six words could bring her back to me?
Michael, I am not going to see the Therapist or Pastor Mark. I am not going to talk to my mom or your sisters or my best friend. Tell them we are not entertaining guests and talk to me.

Look at me and tell me everything you have to say for yourself because I am falling and I am also watching myself die every time I inch closer to the earth. You leave me in this house where our hopes for her assail me and expect to come back and find me cooking in the kitchen while listening to Xfm. Michael, she died and your sisters stood there debating over who pushed me and what they would say to your parents.
I lay there afraid to move as the trees parted to reveal the clear blue sky. How was I to know that no one visited those parts of the woods? How was I to know that whoever heard the children singing as they walked through that part would lose their soul? Who believes in such stories?

But, I heard the children singing. I heard their voices as beautiful as the sun that lit up the clear blue sky fill my heart with such peace before our daughter spilled out of me. It hurt. It still hurts and that is why I have not been able to close my eyes.
I closed them for a second thinking I could feel my legs but when I opened them I had lost my precious one. Our daughter.

You told me that night on our way back, “let’s forget about it baby girl, God has a plan for us, everything will be alright,” but you never looked at me again. We sat next to each other in that bus for three hours and you never said anything. Was it God’s plan to have your sisters trip me so I could fall in the middle of nowhere?
Was it God’s plan to have your family look at me like a pile of filth simply because I am not the woman they wanted you to marry? Was that reason enough for them to commit murder and then bring in God as a buffer?

Michael, you will come home tonight and find me seated on the kitchen floor waiting for you to read this letter. I cannot speak for my head is filled with your sisters voices and laughter. You will read this and when you are done, you will reach out and finally hold  me in your arms. You will sit there on the cold cement floor and hold onto me until I cleanse myself of every ounce of pain and anger through every tear drop.
When I stop for a while, we will have the Ugali and osuga that I shall have prepared and start…we will start because I know what I heard in those woods and I know now that they are not just stories. I know those children have our daughter and some day she too will sing for your sisters.

And oh…how I look forward to that day.

Sadly,
Your Wife, Maria.

Read these posts in the feature too.
Never Complain, Never Explain
The Human Shrine
The Red Kanga

East African Pili Pili Mogo

Binny's Kitchen & Travel diaries


As a true East African, I have a special place in my heart for Mogo (Cassava). It is so versatile. It tastes amazing barbequed or in Indian dishes with spices or in salads.

My favourite way to eat it though (aside from in Lighthouse, Mombasa) is with a fiery hot sauce which I call Poussin sauce.

Mogo takes me down memory lane to my days growing up in Mombasa, Kenya and my dad would take us every Sunday to Lighthouse to eat it roadside.

I am lucky that my husband’s family live in Mombasa and right opposite Lighthouse too so I can still get my fix everytime I visit.

I was recently sent Pili Pili sauces and a fruity sauce by a fellow lovely East African called Maggie, who now lives in Scotland. Originally from Tanzania, she has created a range of hot sauces with differing levels of heat as…

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What a bad review means to a Writer.

Anton Ego, a food critic/reviewer in the movie Ratatouille says,

In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read.

But, what purpose does it serve to call a book ‘awful,’ or ‘trash?’
If I had E. L. James’ email address then I could email her and ask exactly how she deals with all the flac she’s gotten for writing The Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy.
And things went south when she had the Ask El James on Twitter while promoting her book Grey.

However, a review is very important to a Writer in the world of digital platforms. You are in Africa and you’re reading a book written by an Author from either Europe or America. It can either be in paperback or ebook format, but you’re reading that  Author’s work and in that moment you’re appreciating their work.
It is a Writer’s hope and wish that his/her work is read by lots of people. So, you have two reasons why a review is important: you appreciate someone’s work and spread the word so others can do so too.

On social media word spreads as fast as a click. If you key in a book on Google your search is most likely to bring up two sites: Goodreads and Amazon.

As I write this, the feeling of despair is not lost on me as  a Writer upon reading that bad review. I have had a taste of them and given my decision to write full time as time goes I am sure that they’ll fill my pages more than I can control them.

Have you ever wanted to read a book or gotten a book on offer on Kindle only to see bad reviews with reviewers raving “awful, boring, major cliffhanger, reads like it was written by a ten year old, annoying and whiney heroine, where do I start…”

Before you blow your top, bad reviews are part of the journey that assail you as a Writer and what matters is how you deal with it.
If you have published your first book and you come across the first review, and it’s bad, don’t sweat it. Read it or ignore it but if one thing is sure is that not everyone will be a fan or understand the genre you are writing.
On the other hand it’s no excuse to have a poorly edited book with typos and grammatical errors out there.
You have to keep writing. Each story and each book is different from it’s predecessor and you have to focus on that.
Sometimes the bad reviews could increase your sales, case in point Fifty Shades of Grey. The more people said it was awful the more people were curious to read it and find out if that was true.
You also have to bear in mind that you are also a reader and you have written bad or less favorable reviews of some books you have read.
You could take a vacation, or volunteer or work on another project to get your mind focused on a new adventure that could inspire your writing.

A bad review means that someone read your book and did not like it. It might hurt your feelings, bruise your ego and wound your writing spirits, but it will be there.

Lastly, you could picture this scenario that my Mom told me about when  I was blue:
She said that a student in the University of Nairobi once stood up to tell Chinua Achebe that he did not like how Okonkwo was killed in his masterpiece “Things Fall Apart.”
Achebe did not hesitate. He told him, “If you didn’t like it, go and write your book and kill Okonkwo the way you want.”

You’ll hear from Me.

For as long as she could remember the scent of him and that smile, all Vanessa had been doing was waiting.
She  was the one who saw him that day in the school field. He was in a blue shirt and khaki trousers. The other boys were drawn to him as much as the girls were. He said something to make them laugh and that’s when his eyes met her cocoa eyes. They were dark and had a glint of mischief, but it was his height and ease that drew her to him. She had a few boyfriends in her stay in high school. There was the one she met in a bus on her way home who had written one letter but used a revised stamp. She had to pay fifty shillings to read his illegible writing and wrong musical dedications. Any fool knew that “Queen of my Heart” was a song by Westlife and not Backstreet Boys!
There was the great dancer in form three who though short had managed to hit on her best friend and get away with it.  His idea of getting back at her had been to leave an empty packet of milk in her locker. She found it quite refreshing. Their break up and his upgrade became the talk of the two streams for that weekend. She told no one the that she never loved him, but was in awe of his handwriting and grammar. Even  then she knew that she could not love a guy in high school. She could not lend her heart to a boy who had an influx of love letters from other girls. The thought of such deception made her cautious, but relatively stupid.

She fell hard for him.
He was talking to his friends that day but once he caught her staring,  he couldn’t look away. She stood there until he walked towards her.
She could look into his eyes, but the scent of him was all she needed.
He was charming, but she knew that charm was deceitful and her heart stopped.
They were called to the hall where the results were announced. She hated Physics exams. She loved the practical exams but the theory part always had her in knots.
When their teacher announced the results she looked down aware that her performance would prove to him how stupid she was. In fact, she hadn’t studied for it. The skirt she was wearing was a size smaller, and the elastic on those new socks were stressing her, so she couldn’t focus in the exam room.
How would he know that she had been attending an English Symposium the previous evening and had been the best? Or that she wanted to know his name and hear him say that he liked her?

The result came in and he stood when his name was called and the sound of palms meeting filled the room. She could not put her palms together, but he saw her. His eyes stayed with her until the end.

The smart ones stayed in the podium to receive their gifts as the room filled with music. It was a Symposium and some entertainment was in order. She slipped out and returned to the hall when she heard E-Sir’s song,  “Mos Mos” and found herself doing the Helicopter dance just like she had seen in the music videos and shows.
After a while she stepped out through the back door hoping to sneak back to her dorm and change. Those socks were really killing the muscles on her legs.
“You’re a very good dancer, Vanessa.”
He was right beside the door.  His hands were in his pockets and his right leg was raised as he leaned on the wall.
“Hi.”
“Max,you can call me Max. I was looking for you.”
“Well, you found me. ”
” I did. You’ll hear from me.” She wanted to ask when she  would hear from him but she didn’t want to seem desperate. She knew his name and he knew hers. It was enough to disregard the miserable grade she got in Physics.
The next weekend brought with it time to watch a Nigerian movie and read his letter under her blanket with the aide of a flashlight . He did not just like her, he really liked her. He was not afraid to admit it, but he found her confidence a little intimidating.
His handwriting was impeccable and he signed off better than she had hoped. She read his letter over the weekend, before she could pick a pen to answer his letter. But she knew even then that her heart would always beat to his.

That was ten years ago. Vanessa was still waiting. She heard from Max once in a while but his words never reached her heart or sparked the fire that he had kindled in her.
She had dated some guys, got dumped by three and set four in the friend zone. He had evolved into an accountant. She had evolved into a woman. When they met that day at the cafe, he had invited her to his apartment and treated her to lunch. He had the same glint in his eyes. She had the same stare.
He kissed her forehead that night, but nothing beyond that. She walked home tired and spent. He had drained her of the fire she kept burning for him.

She did everything to steer clear of him. No one she knew had married their high school sweetheart, but even then she hoped she would be the first.  The fire in her heart was slowly picking up. He worked in the same building as her, and they had lunch when his moods favored him. Her colleagues told her they looked great together every day. She smiled at the beginning but it became more of a burden like an unwanted constipation.
She stayed late in the office that evening. The proposals for the new Campaign had to be revised before the Shareholders meeting the next morning. She heard the knock and his scent.
“Hey, would you mind if I join you?”
“No, please do.”
“Thanks.”
“I brought you some cupcakes from the cafe. I know you always have house coffee and two chocolate cupcakes every Wednesday.”

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“Thank you Max, I didn’t know that I had a stalker in you.”
“I think it’s a good thing, at least a stalker who brings you cupcakes, look, would you like to go out with me, as in be my girlfriend Vanessa?”
“Max…”
“I know it’s been a while but I have been watching you Vanessa. Like how you frown when you want to say something but can’t. You also love blue scarves, and that everything has to be in order for you, but more so I have seen the way you look at me.”
“Max,can we do this later, um…”
“I have waited for fifteen years to talk to the girl I met at St. Anne’s during a Physics symposium who made me lose my cool. The girl who knew she came first and who wrote me the only letters I have ever had the pleasure of reading. I could sit here and go on, or tell you how much I have dreamed of this, but it is not in my style to live like am one of those Mexicans you swoon over in TV. So, what will it be Vanessa, be honest with me.”
“Max…”
“Are you seeing someone?”
“No, all this time I thought that it would never happen. You made me wait Max. I waited and dreamed and gave up and gained hope, it was like… Would you wait for me to finish typing this document?”
“It’s been fifteen years Vanessa, a few more hours wouldn’t hurt, but am not leaving this office without you.”
“You’ll hear from me.”

Other awesome posts in the East Africa Friday Feature
The Girl with the Golden Smile 2
Flashes of The Birthday Killer

You know Steve, right?

Okay.

So, you have that lunch that you’ve been talking about with your friends for years. You pick a restaurant that has free WiFi, yes- it is important to share those pictures on Instagram and Facebook.

You notice that someone has lost weight, another has gained some (but you won’t speak of it, if she asks, you say she is beautiful) and another is growing this bump that she cannot stop talking about. She is the mother to be and then all eyes settle on you, “So when are you getting married?”

And you shrug off your shoulders like, “God’s timing is best,” even though you know that you have had some suitors but are just not interested. So they  look at you like you are crazy but say, “yeah, but no worries, you will meet the right guy at the appointed time.”

And you immediately say “Amen!” and look at the menu like an English teacher would mark an essay. They giggle a little and you do not bother to ask because that’s an inside joke among the engaged and married people. The waiter approaches your table and you say, “I will have the mango juice and chips masala.” The one with the bump looks at you and asks, “how do you keep fit with all that junk?”

You smile and say, “I do not eat chips during the week, so why not treat myself today, besides I hear their masala chips is to die for.” She nods and orders the same. The others place their orders and the waiter leaves you in the company of three lovely women whom you’ve drawn apart from and free WiFi. Which one would you pick?

Yes, so you go through your emails and check your Facebook wall for those updates and that’s when you see it:

“At __ restaurant with so and so, having a blast!” And you look up with your eye asking, “really?” But you say nothing because that’s the irony of it all. The person who cannot afford bamba 20 is always posting pictures of Jameson, Smirnoff Black Ice, Jack Daniels or standing beside a Range Rover with the hashtag #turntup #lifeisgood

So, you stop being so judgmental and switch off that new android phone you got with an impressive five inch captive screen and turn to the girls for a conversation. You start talking and listening and you realize that the one who has lost weight is Sharon. She used to sit behind you in class. She was index ten and she is frustrated at work because all the policies she creates are accredited to her boss. She knows so much about investments and even gives you a formula for saving and invites you to this chama she’s in.

The one with the bump is Martha. She is staying at home now, while her husband is working. She loves it because she had been in the banking industry for two years and she hated it. She wants to go back to school but they cannot afford it. She is scared that her second baby won’t be an easy pregnancy. She almost had a miscarriage last week.

And finally the one who has put on weight, well, she just got a job two years after graduating from the university. She had been stressed by her family and relatives desire to get her to move out and settle down. She is not dating anyone because her boyfriend had been sleeping around with the other women in her  block. She says that whole “boy next door thing” is so wrong! Those type of guys have a constant supply of women and you all burst laughing. You realize that she is Michelle, and you always chat on twitter even though she goes by a different handle.

They turn to you and you say, you are figuring things out and all will be well. You have had jobs and you have traveled a lot, and most of all you are proud of your family’s support. Then Martha asks you if you are dating anyone. You sigh and say that you were dating this great guy, but you got tired of waiting on him and so now you are single, but not so single…and they laugh.

Just then the waiter comes pushing a trolly and serves you your food and you dig in like the hungry beautiful women that you are! Then Michelle asks Martha how Steve is doing, and she starts, “You know Steve, right? He is working and I do not spend as much time with him as I did before…”

Then you say you have never seen this Steve guy and Martha pulls out her phone. She types in a pin and goes to her Gallery and swipes left for a while until she gets to the picture she wants and then holds the phone in your face, “that’s my Steve!”

“Are you okay?”

“Um…”

“Hey, you look like you have seen him before, do you know him?”

“Um, yes…I think we have met at a training or something…does he work for a CSO?”

“Yes, oh my! It’s a small world!”

You look at your food and feel like someone is out to get you. You keep stuffing your mouth with fries. You know it should not bother you that Steve is the guy! You know?