Chapter Fifteen: Jeff

He went home early. He parked the car in the garage and walked into the house. It was four o’clock when he stepped into the sitting room. Hakeem ran up to him and hugged him. “Where’s Iman?”

“She is drinking juice in the kitchen with Auntie Mary.”

“Auntie Mary is here?”

“Yes, she bought us ice-cream but I finished mine! Sorry.”

“It’s okay, let’s go and say hello to Auntie Mary and get some juice too.”  He lifted Hakeem and made his way to the kitchen where his sister-in-law was busy grating carrots with the help of Iman. They looked up when he entered the kitchen. Iman smiled and waved at him. Mary nodded and continued grating the carrots.

“Mami, go into your room with Hakeem, I’d like to talk to your Auntie.”

“Why? Did she not do her homework too?”

“Something like that mami, get off the kitchen counter and see what you can do as we catch up.”

Jeff waited until the kids had left the kitchen before turning to Mary. She smiled at him and continued grating the carrots. “Where’s Besh?” he asked.

“I don’t know.”

“What do you mean you don’t know? She is your sister for chrissake!”

“She is your wife and you know what Christ has to say about that and being put asunder.”

“Mary, I am not in the mood for one of your games. Tell me where Besh is!”

“I don’t know. She called me this morning crying about something and asked me to be home when the kids came from school. I was shocked but seeing as I had no lectures today, I got into a matatu and made my way here from Maseno. Iman told me that she does not stay here anymore. I don’t know what is going on Jeff but given how you demand to know her whereabouts, I have a feeling that you did something to make her leave. What did you do? Wait, better yet, whom did you do?”

“Watch your tone Mary! You are in my house.”

“You are right. Listen, you can finish grating the carrots and check on the meat that’s cooking. I have other things to do with my life than live by your rules.”

“Mary, wait…just finish cooking, you can leave in the morning. Forget what I said, it’s been a stressful time for us. Your sister asked for time to think things through and I don’t know, maybe I was putting too much pressure on her to have another baby, she just snapped. I am sorry if I offended you. It was not my intention.”

“Aha…I see, so you can also apologize? Listen Jeff, she knew about the other women and it killed her. I don’t know how you could never see how much it hurt her when you lied to her face. I don’t like you but I am here because my sister asked me to. Besh, did not ‘just snap,’ she broke and for the sake of your life, I hope you get what’s coming to you. You don’t deserve my sister Jeff. You don’t.”

What six years of publishing on Smashwords mean to me.

Yes! Six years…

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It’s been six years since I started publishing on Smashwords. I am taking part in NanoWrimo this year and could not stop but look back at my writing and self-publishing journey over the years.

Here’s a break down of the titles published in each year and the number of copies that have been downloaded:

Year Titles published Downloads
2011 Dear Yellow

Dear May

1045

752

2012 Say You Love Me

If time is all I have

Ethan & Richard

The Absolutely Boring Life of Mya

Made for You

Last Heart Standing

From the Heart

The book of Abel

Dear Brian

I love you this much

Never forget me Leila

December

2652

185

648

2105

3435

1137

693

590

601

13511

710

1170

2013 Pieces

I wanted to tell you

Only time will tell

The Single Diaries

Anna

Memories

1009

619

594

995

899

542

2014 Choose me

21 Days

What happened to us?

The perfect love story

Confessions of time spent with humans

1348

779

1732

1112

490

2015 Silence & Shadows

Mist

325

604

2016 Roses and Lies

The place you call home

284

87

If you are into numbers, my basic math tells me that it’s 40,653 downloads in a span of six years and if you’d have told me that it’s the number I’d be seeing years later, I would have not believed you. 2012 was a good year for it seems I wrote and published the most!  After 2013, my ebook titles took an abstract turn and I ventured forth into other genres, taking a break from romance.

Since then I have ventured forth to Createspace, Pronoun and Amazon Kindle. 

However, forget the numbers or the numerous platforms that have since then come to the reach of authors across the globe. This is a personal milestone for me. I am nowhere near where I envision myself and I struggle with getting there.

I struggle with Grammar, punctuation and hanging clauses…and in the blogging world, I struggle with getting the right headline and traffic. I post and let it be. It is something I started doing way back in 2011 and still haven’t grasped the subtle art of marketing.

Whenever someone tells me they love reading my blog or that they enjoyed reading a book I wrote, I simply nod and smile. I leave it at that. Honestly, it’s uncomfortable being praised and one percent (1%) of me feels great when I receive a compliment but the other ninety-nine percent (99%) wants to run and hide.

Have you been publishing on Smashwords?

Do you have an online platform that you can say was your first step into self-publishing?

I mean like seriously, I went from designing my ebook covers using picmonkey to canva and adobe creative suite!

One of the greatest challenge for me has been the distribution of my books especially those that I set out to be in both print and soft copy. Most of the readers, friends, or enthusiasts here in Kenya insist on getting the print copy. Since publishing in 2015 on Amazon, 5 people have bought the paperback copies via the amazon site. The rest are hesitant to go online and get the books shipped. I do ship copies but they are booked and paid for even before they arrive, mostly by strangers. Yes, it is true, family and friends are great support, but when a stranger invests in your work and loves it, you get even more people investing in your work.

I have a long way to go and maybe come the end of this month, my next book shall be available in both print and ebook versions.

Here are six things I’ve learned about self-publishing:

  1. You’ve got to write before you publish. This is the most important thing that has kept me going. Writers write there’s no shortcut.
  2. Self-publishing is not an automatic key to millions. It may take a while o be noticed especially on smashwords because a lot of people write and publish every second.
  3. Do not give up. Cliche right? Well, it’s as old and sound as gold, you keep pressing on.
  4. There are so many options when it comes to platforms for self-publishing and you’ve got to figure out which one to take. Do your research. Read through the comments, reviews and FAQs before you pick on one.
  5. If you are on facebook, twitter, instagram, or google plus be sure to share links to your work. There is a lot of information on the internet, so save your audience the time, and make it easier for them to get access to your work. Sharing is caring.
  6. Free is not always the best option.

Today marks six years and I have no clue as to what tomorrow holds for me, all I know is that I am glad that I went beyond the class compositions and project papers and actually created worlds using words.

Happy anniversary to me and a big thank you to Smashwords and Mark Coker for taking the initiative to create such a platform. You helped a Writer out and you continue to do so!

Chapter Ten: Jeff

He waited until Belinda had tucked the kids in bed before handing her a cup of tea. She looked at him and then reached for the cup saying “thanks.”

“How have you been Besh?”

“Fine, thank you.”

“How is work?”

“It’s great.”

“Where do you stay?”

“In a house.”

“Where is this house?”

“It’s here in Kisumu.”

“Who are you staying with?”

“No one.”

“Are you safe?”

“Yes.”

“Look, is there any way I can come and visit?”

“No, thank you.”

“So you are still insisting on staying away from us? It has been three weeks Belinda. You are like the day time maids in your own home. You come in the morning, at four in the evening and leave by seven thirty; does that seem alright to you?”

“How is Michelle doing?”

“Who?”

“Exactly, so, it seems just fine Jeff. I am taking the time I need to sort out my life and you do not get a front row seat! Thank you for the tea. I’ll be on my way now.”

“Besh, you can’t keep doing this.”

“I know, but when I get tired of doing it, I’ll do something else Jeff. Goodnight.”

He drew the curtain in the sitting room slightly so he could watch her walk down the street into the night. The cup of tea in his hand was still warm. She looked younger, stronger and there was something in her eyes, something he saw the first night he took her out on a date. He walked back to the leather chair he’d been sitting on and settled in with the remote in hand. She wanted time; he was going to give it to her. He however did not know which version of Belinda would return to him, if ever she returned.

He thought about Michelle and felt his heart take a leap. How had Belinda known about Michelle and why didn’t she wreck havoc over her?

He finished taking his tea and then went to bed later on. If he would have taken time to mull over Belinda’s question, he would have known that the storm she’d raised was gaining momentum. He would have run after Belinda into the night and begged for dear life, but being the man that he was, Jeff could always say that he never saw it coming and that would be the only truth he ever uttered in his life.

Worry

You came to me.

I summoned you into my mind and you built a fortress when all I needed was a five minute consultation. It’s been days. You forged an alliance with my intuition, signed a treaty with my fears and sealed the bond with my hopes.

Intuition kept telling me that it’s all a trial. It is a test to see if my love is true, to see if I would be the one to pursue and seek first. It kept telling me to listen but I said “what if you are wrong?”

She said “What if I never shut up?”

Fear told me I might blow things out of proportion, make a mountain of a molehill, destroy a good thing.

Hope stayed calm saying “this too shall pass, besides you never know unless you address it.”

So, I picked up a book and added another layer of ice to my heart. When you’ve been single for a long time you are comfortable with the silence within. You are you. You walk around the house in pajamas, read books, drink coffee, listen to Lecrae, dance in your underwear.

So, dearest worry, before you get too comfortable in your fortress, remember that you were summoned. Whatsoever’s summoned can always be banished, I would bear that in mind, in fact, I would think about it and act on it.

Hope says “stay single, you’re better than this.”

I look at the time. It’s 3 am and I for one have no objection.

Hey, can I ask you something?

It’s 10:36A.M. as I start writing this. If you are in Kenya, chances are you are seated at home alone, or maybe with friends, or family simply watching a movie because the news on TV is either depressing or never-changing. You are not on Facebook because since August 8th, you’ve come to tap the unfollow and block icons on your smartphone so much so that you don’t even know what your threshold for isht is.

It is refreshing that Kenyans love to be the bearer of news. First, most of our politicians took up the roles criminals and comedians. We thrive on just how foolish they can get, and especially when they deny uttering statements in public even as they are watching a clip of it. Now, we all have smartphones and bundles! Lawd, what would we be without bundles and powerbanks! Wi-Fi ni ya watu wa Nairobi…some other cities are yet to have that stuff in their homes, oh mercy! I know not the future of journalism, but hey…if in one minute you can get ten million different updates on the same story, well… I digress.

So, this morning I was woken up by two texts. See, here’s the thing world, I am a morning person. Yes, I wake up at 2am and write till 4am then pray to the gods of slumber to allow me to enter their world until 6:30am where I exit their world for that of another dawn. So, receiving a text at half past four in the morning is like being summoned to the world of daybreak, and that my friends, is like trying to get a cat to have a bath!

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Google Images

I reach for my phone and then I see “would you please tell me if I am doing the right thing?” Of course, I’d read the second text first. So, I sat up and went to my messages and the first text was “hey, can I ask you something? How do u knw uv lk made the right dsn? I mean, how do u knw that sm1 the 1 4 u?”

I thought, “not with that kind of communication!” and sent her a text message “call me and tell me what’s up.” She called and somewhere between conversation I dozed off. I know I did because as I was going through my phone at seven in the morning, there were three missed calls from her and eight text messages. I could try and tell you what they were about, but given that she’s not the kind to use words while texting, we’d both be at a loss. My fingers for doing the typing and you for struggling to read what you’d consider a drunkard’s slur.

I’ve always known a couple of phrases to be conversation starters for people at a crossroads. When someone says “can I ask you something?”, “can we talk?”, “are you busy?”, “can you do me a favour?”, “listen…”, “I have this friend,” then know that it’s not going to be a declaration but rather a call for your full attention, because there’s a dilemma that needs a solution.

I happened to fall asleep in the middle of the discussion of one. It’s pretty obvious that I had to call and make amends, but it also reminded me of something I have been taking for granted for the past one month. My instinct.

I’ve been struggling with writing Ushanga and all the while there’s been the feeling of giving my characters room to grow and breathe life into the story. In a way, I am working on that, but I love control and no, I am not Mr. Grey who exercises control in all things…I am learning to let go and sometimes working with an outline can really stifle your writing.

Have a good day people!

TMI

Reading: 

Listening to: 4:44 by Jay Z

Drinking: Black coffee (my first cup of the day)

Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

Let’s face it, my first week of August has been awesome largely due to great books. Yesterday I was going on about Rain Falls on Everyone by Clar Ni Chonghaile.

Today it’s Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert. After reading Eat, Pray, Love- I was content to read this book because I was eager to know more about Elizabeth and Felipe, how did it turn out for her? Did she commit after swearing off marriage? Did she come to find what she was looking for? (Yes,we all know that I am a hopeless romantic, hence my desire to finally buy a little black dress:-) )

So, here’s the thing about Committed, unlike the first book, this one is downright entertaining. I loved her research into marriage in various cultures and the roles that women and men played in this institution. 

I also loved the quotes at the beginning of each chapter and I’m noting them down for future conversation starters!

Be of love (a little)/ more careful/ than of everything else. E. E. Cummings

A man can be happy with any woman as long as he does not love her. Oscar Wilde

Marriage is a friendship recognised by the police. R. L. Stevenson

It’s been a productive day for me and any day that begins with time spent at Java is always an awesome day for me! I am looking forward to casting my vote tomorrow and hoping all the other voters make an informed decision that would see Kenya prosper. I am also moving on to the next book which happens to be Alexander by Valerio Massimo Manfredi.

Yeah, Manfredi is my absolute favorite because his retelling of legends always has that extra spice to it, it’s like the perfect serving of curry! So, I can’t wait to get started on this.

Have a great afternoon.

TMI

Listening to: Long Live the Angels by Emeli Sande

Currently reading: 19 Souls by J. D. Allen.

Drinking: Water 

Ice-cream in cups and tea in cones

Mark Twain once said that, “There is a charm about the forbidden that makes it unspeakably desirable.” I wonder what made him utter those words, to whom and to what end.

It’s a beautiful, sunny Saturday here in Kisumu. I got out of bed at nine this morning because like the past five days, my sleep patterns have been affecting my writing so much so that it seems like whatever I write every day at 2 A.M., does not add to the book I’ve been working on. I wonder, what would you do with content that’s irrelevant to your purpose? If we were having this conversation three years ago, I would have deleted them. I have since come to appreciate my scraps of writing by neatly filing them in a blue box file under my bed. They gather dust every week.

I took time to run a few errands for my mom and this saw me walk into Choppies ( formerly known as Ukwala, Format and so on) to get a copy of today’s newspaper, 2 litres of Fanta Passion (because I’m all about Fanta) and 500ml of Vanilla Ice-Cream.

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remember this post?

So, there I am making my way around the supermarket and this girl walks up to me and smiles. She’s in those ombre braids, since I can’t explain that stuff, let me look up an image on Google and share it…just give me a second, okay, wait…something like this:

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She begins “Hey, how are you? It’s great to finally meet you.”

“Hi, it’s nice to meet you too, are we friends on facebook?”

“No, we are not, but I liked your page and I always read your blog? You’re so funny, like how do you do it? Do you just sit and start typing and then click send? I’ve always wanted to have a blog of my own but you know lectures and campo and stuff. So, what are you working on?”

“I’m mostly working on myself. I am taking time to get the next book going so keep up with me on the blog and I’ll let you know when it’s ready.”

“It’s Ushanga right? I love the picture of the maasai bracelet! Wait, why did you like choose that for a cover? I also noticed your covers look more simple like hazina a lot going on. I love that. I also loved your other books like ile ya Leila and Max, tell me was that about you? Kwanza 21 days! Wait, was Zora also you, because those books were too real to be just stories, hebu tell me!”

“What do you think?”

“I don’t know if I am right or wrong, but I have a feeling that Leila was you, but Zora was partly you. Listen, I got my friends to read them and we’ve been talking about you ever since, they won’t believe that I met you. Look, is it okay if we took a selfie? I promise I will only send it to my friends on whatsapp.”

We moved to the next aisle because there was no way I was going to take a selfie near the pampers aisle, who knows, the picture might find its way to one of my aunt’s streams and then I’d be getting calls like “to nyakwara biro chieng’ mane? To dhok?” 

We took a selfie and she gave a quick hug and disappeared as fast as she’d appeared. I know she’ll get to read this and think, “why did you have to post this?” Truth is, meeting you lovely reader was something I prayed to the gods of literature would never happen, and as usual, the gods laughed and made it happen.

I walked back to the freezers and added another tab of Vanilla ice-cream because now I had a reason to get concerned about my writing and that meant dealing with what I’ve been avoiding for the past two weeks.

Have you ever had tea in a cone?

I did, two hours ago, but the tea had to be cold so as not to melt the cone…now I’m nursing a toothache!

TMI

Currently reading:

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Listening to: Illuminate by Shawn Mendes

Drinking: Tea

 

What’s in my bag and snippets of advice from the market

I had no intention of leaving the house yesterday. I woke up and washed my clothes which in this case happened to be: my blue smurfs pajama pants, two pairs of black stocking, an orange tee-shirt and one floral bedsheet.

I knew the day had more in store for me, but I was stuck in a zone where I kept replaying the lyrics of Despacito…yes, catchy tune and all but there’s that part that goes something like “pasito a pasito suave suavecito,” that kept coming out of my lips like a chant! So, I took some tea, had a bath and changed into my all time fave; a grey tee-shirt and jeans and a pair of red ngomas and headed out to town. I also took my backpack along with some essentials:

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I don’t know why I always carry cello-tape but it’s better than a pair of scissors right?

So, I make my first stop at The Darling store downtown and ask for some short braids. A lady writes down my order on a piece of paper, takes my money and hands it over to the cashier. While I’m standing there, someone taps my knee…I turn to my left and see this lady, she smiles. I smile back.

“Didn’t you see me when you got here?” She asks.

Are you a billboard? I shake my head and reply, ” I am sorry I did not, my mind’s miles away. How are you?”

“I am fine, seems like it took a tap to get your attention.”

“Seems so.” She starts to say something and then the cashier calls out my order and I take the braids off the counter and stuff them into my bag and leave. James is waiting for me outside. He is basking on the motorbike a.k.a Bajaj Boxer…spotting a NASA t-shirt and cap. When he sees me, he takes his position and we head out to the market.

I pay him his due and he takes off as I walk into the market scouting for two things: eggs and sweet bananas. You can never buy just two things at the market because vendors know how to advertise their goods in such a way that they reel you in with their chants and before you know it, you’ve bought two pairs of stockings that you are never going to wear! The first guy is busy shouting “Boyfriend na soo, kau boyfriend kae gi mia, weri gi ati oh lunch, ati oh sweetie, kau boyfriend gi mia, nyathi ma nyako nyakandisre.” (Buy a boyfriend jacket at a hundred shillings, forget the lunch or sweetie , and buy a boyfriend jacket because a girl’s gotta look good)

I look through a few jackets before getting distracted by a lady selling bags right behind him. I switch lanes and check out the bags. I spot a navy blue backpack and ask the lady how much it costs. She looks at me and then lifts up a brown leather handbag and says “How about this one? This is the kind of bag for you, that one has been taken already.”

“Thanks, I just liked the backpack. I could try some other day.”

“No, wait…listen look through this pile of handbags you might find something you like. A lady should always have a handbag you know.”

I took a step back and smiled and walked away. I don’t know what she had to say as I left but the man beside her was loud enough for me to hear, “why do you always have to make someone buy what you want? You should have sold that bag, now she left unhappy and we haven’t made a sale.” Maybe I looked unhappy to them. I have been told that not only do I wear my heart on my sleeve but I wear my expressions on my face. It must have been her conviction that a lady should always have a handbag that made me take a step back. It could also be that she wanted to reserve the navy blue backpack to sell at a higher price because it wasn’t singled out when I spotted it.

As I got back home, I poured myself a cup of tea and joined my sister in watching afrosinema.

T.M.I

Currently reading: Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

Listening to: 7/27 by Fifth Harmony

Drinking: Coffee (my first cup of the day)

Writing: Ushanga (5 pages down…a whole lot to go!)

Salt shaker

I’ll write you a story; a good story.

I’ll throw in similes; as sweet as honey, a dark as night, as proud as a peacock and watch you become as gentle as a lamb.

I’ll paint your days dark and color your nights yellow.

I’ll write you a story, yeah, you bet I will. When you hold your phone closer to your face in the matatu, or scroll down your computer screen…you’ll know that it is about you.

Your laugh, smile…how you cross your arms above your chest, how you look at me when I am not looking at you. How you have been trying to decipher me. 

I’ll write you not one, but two stories and watch you shed your worries. Is this real? Are you for real? What are your plans?

I’ll write you a story, because I’d rather write than utter,

For I fear I might falter and stutter,

But…but…but, here’s the deal, I’ll write and you’ll read.

You’ll read and these words would sink in,

You’ll read and these words will get you thinking that maybe, just maybe I’m talking to you.

You’ll read and a part of me will be shaken, shaken like a salt shaker,ready for some seasoning.

July’s favorites

One day at a time.

It seems like the Procrastinator’s code of life but for someone who’s been through tough times, it’s all that makes sense. I should have gathered this much in counseling, but I am a planner so, waiting it out seems like indecision at times. 

The aspect of not knowing where I stand with people and events unnerves me.

I’ve often found myself working on a thing or two and this month’s all about more hours writing and listening to music. I am loving a few things this month and thought since I did a post on June’s favorites why not do the same for July,so here goes nothing;

Lipbalm, animal print purse, fanta passion,americanah
Aliyana hair products are bae!

I have a friend who smelled my hair, like she actually went for a ten second sniff saying my hair smelled like bubble fruit gum and she wanted to eat it. I will admit that having a conditioner that smells like candy is one way of starting out the day with a smile.

I am also munching more on Giant chicken samosas made at Java.

The songs on replay on my list include:

  • Mungu Pekee by Nyashinski
  • Despacito by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee
  • I will boast in Christ by Hillsong
  • Even if by Mercy Me
  • Burn by Usher

    One day a time.

    It’s all I’m saying for now. #Ushangaloading