Micro 0331:

Once upon a time a woman gave birth to a son, the first seed of her womb. When he was placed upon her breast, tiny and wrinkled, the weight of her hopes and dreams descended upon him. The crooning of family and friends who laid eyes upon him bolstered her hopes and she built formidable castles that gleamed in the Sun. Images of welcoming and feasting burst before her in glorious array; she the matriarch of a vast sea of sons. Maybe one beautifully lithe daughter, her splitting image, suitors lined up and clawing at each other to marry her. She envisioned adoring grandchildren racing through the corridors of her castle, their bubbly giggles rebounding off solid walls, full of the vigour of youth.
She basked in the praise showered upon her and bloomed in the validation given to her. She had a son.
She had not prepared herself for fear or desperation. She had not seen Death stealing glances at her precious bundle, it’s long greedy fingers reaching out of the veil to caress his cheek. “Mine,” it had whispered, sending a chill through the room that settled in her womb, scorching it with frozen heat so it would never bear another soul.
No one knew.
He brought a young girl home, “My wife…”
The castle gleamed, no one knew.
“You’re not welcome anymore, my wife…”
The castle dissolved into the image of a small cottage. She could not have forseen.
“You cannot see them, Mom. My wife…”
“I’m unwell, Mom. My wife…”
The cottage crumbled into dust that sailed on huge gusts of winds, scattered, and were lost.
The cold earth slips from her hands, dropping hollowly onto the cedar box. “My son,” her wreaked voice croaks.
“My son,” Death corrects, a fixed smile upon a terrible visage, a friendly hand intertwined with the woman her son had called, “My wife.”

When it is good to be a woman

The past few days have been almost whirlwind like. Finally, one of my projects is complete and I’m proud to share it with anyone who thinks things like these are totally cool.

In doing the research I needed to compile my super duper list of African authors, I came across the story of an Algerian author.

Yasmina Khadra (Arabic: ياسمينة خضراء‎, literally “green jasmine”) is the pen name of the Algerian author Mohammed Moulessehoul.
Moulessehoul, an officer in the Algerian army, adopted a woman’s pseudonym to avoid military censorship. Despite the publication of many successful novels in Algeria, Moulessehoul only revealed his true identity in 2001 after leaving the army and going into exile and seclusion in France. Anonymity was the only way for him to survive and avoid censorship during the Algerian Civil War. 
The irony of this is completely incredible!
For those who have not had the privilege of studying African literature, many authors from the 70’s were very vocal about corruption and the state of their countries. They were subsequently jailed, killed or forced into exile. This was about 10 years after Europeans decided it was time to stop fighting so hard to control people and give them their independence.
Almost every author I know who was sent into exile was a man and in reading Moulessehoul’s short biography, I see why. Maybe the words women wrote were not considered quite as powerful, or subversive. Even today women struggle trying to get their voices heard. They write and speak and invent titles meant to instigate others and force them into conversations about issues they find important.
On the other hand we have a man, using a woman’s name, in order to say what he wanted to say.
I wonder if this is still where we are. Ignoring female voices because their words do not weigh as much as a man’s words would. Maybe not.

Micro 0122: Silence

http://kellcandido.deviantart.com/art/Sweet-angel-of-death-306560833

Sweet angel of death, by KellCandido

It is silent here. Not ‘absence of noise’ silence. I can hear the Movement, slow and unchanging. I can hear crying. Someone is wailing. And yet it is silent, like laying still under dead earth where you cannot hear the sound of birds or the voices of family that just threw dirt over your body.

It is silent here. Not quiet, silent. Like the grungy scepters that hunch over unsuspecting children featured in artists imaginations, we hunch over our wards, watching and waiting for their transition to this place. Somehow we chose them, in a time whose memory has faded, having been exposed to the endlessness of this place, yawning and horrible, swallowing purpose and every feeling of love.

Someone is wailing in the distance. The sound struggles to reach me through the thick silence, finally squeaking past in a soft hoarse gasp. Whoever they are, they made it here. I resent them. I resent her.

The time for her transition is near, but sentiment and obligation stubbornly tie her to the flesh of her flesh, and bone of her bone. She does not know. How could she? It is a trap. She does not know. Nothing she can do will stop the painful tear that will bring her here, to the place where sentiment is going to trap her and she will learn hatred. Then she will forget hatred and learn to forget.

I’m locked here because of foolish words etched into the memory of this ether.
“I’ll be watching over you.”

She is my last one, my last promise.
Die.
So I prise her fingers.
Die.
White knuckling to life.
Die.
One by one.
Die.
I must get free.

Micro 0119: Welcome

Welcome.

Your mother told you not to join a gang. But here you are, foolish rebel. You have romanticized this moment but it is not going to turn out the way you think. You need to stop watching movies. There is no information in there that will tell you the truth. We live hard lives, we are not friends, you will not be receiving fringe benefits for a long time.

We are a serious organization. It is not our fault that the ‘authority’ call us a gang. We do what we want, when we want it, regardless. And don’t you go “regardless of what” -ing me. REGARDLESS! That should be enough, you lazy sunzabee… Now look what you made me do.

That scared look you have donned is not going to help you either. My emotional armour is tighter than your little brother’s briefs and cannot be penetrated by pathetic looks. Mcccchhhheeeww. So stand up straight, and look into my eyes.

First order of business: Today you thought you would be attending some kind of briefing. This is not to be so. You were brought here by someone who hand picked you from a throng of admirers of our work, and some seriously twisted parents who want to make a little money off you. A rival gang has challenged us to a duel at 51st and Juma Avenue. We are not cowards and we will not be put to shame. You will be sent to battle on our behalf. Do not return until you are victorious. If you are unable to achieve victory, be sure to perish in battle. There will be no sympathy for survivors.

Line up against that wall. I will be handing your weapons to you in a just a moment, as soon as Yunia stops crying. Wipe those tears, foolish child. No one wants to be here as much as you do. And yes, George, you have to fight. No way to get out of it.

NO MORE QUESTIONS.

What do you think this is? Chatterbox time. Look at my face. My I-am-not-playing face. Remember it.

Take only one package from the top of the pile (thank you Cissy), the small bag is to be worn against your hip. All the packages go inside and your weapon is worn against the side of your chest for easy access.

What is it George? Are you old enough? For what? Fighting? You think you can stop the inevitable? You think that you have earned the right to question the laws put down… hold on…

The vehicle is here. No more time. Line up!

Enjoy your day at school.

The Struggle Factor

There is nothing so unappealing to me as the struggling artist. I know that many do, but can I say that I don’t like it?

When there are so many examples of artists that have been able to ‘get there’ I just cannot understand the appeal. That being said, I know that so many compromises have to be met in order to get to that point and many artists have (and quite rightly so) said they had to sell their souls, but I’m of the opinion that I can buy it back and make it all worth it.

Am I naive in suggesting that this might work? Possibly. But I’m still gonna try.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I know that people legitimately struggle in an effort to sell the work for a price that is reasonable. After all, no matter what medium we use, paint, fabric, words, film, we all find it difficult to convince people that it actually takes effort to create what we create.

But I find it difficult to go quietly into the night. I’mma fight for mine, hope you’re fighting too!

Never ending battles & Micro0109: For the Queen

I wrote a story today.

I liked it. Wasn’t sure anyone else would so for a moment I decided I was going to keep it to myself. Started on something else that did not inspire me and it fell flat like a cake with too much moisture.

Time and time again we’ve heard people say that you need to write for yourself and not try to pander to an audience. The ones who like your story will find it wherever they go, and those who don’t will read other stories. How hard is that to learn and understand? Quite hard, apparently, coz I’m still working on that.

So, in light of that, here is my story, the one I actually wanted to tell, the one that inspired me. Enjoy.

For the Queen

Once upon a time, a woman inherited a kingdom. To the west, grassy knolls rolled over the countryside curving artfully around overflowing gardens that burst with bounty, stretching as far as the eye could see. The eastern border came to an abrupt halt at the jagged edge of plunging cliffs, where the sea writhed and roared and moaned and spat.
The land was rich and the people lacked for nothing and lived in peace with their neighbours, but the crown sat heavily upon her brow, each stone a ton of worry, each pearl a thundering wild horse pounding through her mind.
A spell of great and dire magic had been cast on the kingdom by a Witch Queen, wild and deadly, her bewitchment reaching out with deadly fingers of greed, malcontent, envy.
Sister struck down sister, soaking her garment in the blood, brother struggled against brother, pushing him six feet underground. Chaos reigned and the young woman’s ears were filled with the desperate cries of her people.
She called to the Witch Queen, the fell words like bile against her tongue, and begged her to undo the magic and free her people.
The Witch Queen demanded one thing. Her soul.
The hopeless councillors spread their hands, their pain a Goliath against their own consciences, and they surrendered to fear.
The crown upon her head sunk deep claws into her head refusing to be cast off, perplexing the councillors and angering the Witch Queen. Only the crown bestowed the kingdom upon the wearer and it had a mind of its own.
Urged on by the spell, the young woman’s people dragged her from her throne and marched her eastwards to the edge of the cliff. A vile threat. An action. Collective consciousness stained with the blood of a young Queen who had no choice.
Her body lay broken, the waves smashing her against the toothy wall of the cliff, the weight of the crown dragging her into the depths of the sea.
The spirit of the young woman rose out of her watery grave and fell upon the Witch Queen destroying her utterly. It flowed through her kingdom, raining justice like a thunder roar and ending the years of malcontent and strife. She does not distinguish between friend or foe. So when you pass through the rubble remnants of her kingdom, remember your offering at the cliff’s edge, and bow the knee when a jewel encrusted crown floats your way.

Strength to leave

I read a blog post. Someone was writing a letter to a public figure (singer of mild fame) whose boyfriend, and father of her daughter, died in her arms after he had been shot.

He, a football star, had married a woman he had been in a relationship with for 7 years. In the 8th year of their relationship he met the singer who publicly displayed images of their relationship on instagram. Needless to say, the wife found out, but she stayed.

It is almost too easy to dismiss the sacrifice it takes to stay with someone who chooses to  hang on to you while reaching out for someone else. I cannot fathom it. What is easier to understand (from my point of view) is the choice to leave.

I tried to examine it once.

————————————————-

Welcome to Your Home
A short story by Gloria Bwandungi

The evening sky was dark, filled with dark gloomy clouds that hoarded precious water from the parched and thirsty cracking ground. They raced across the sky towards the west, chasing the sun, as though they were afraid of the looming darkness of night from the east. A cold wind blew, lifting rust coloured dust from the unpaved road, leaving scattered little eddies that quickly died down.
The bus stop in the middle of nowhere rose above me, its rusted sign flapping in the wind, pinging against the metallic pole, the mournful staccato beat it drummed out sounding cheerful in contrast to the thoughts of my mind.
My large suitcase bore the marks of a long and arduous journey, having bumped and crashed against other passengers’ luggage in the compartment on the bus. A small tear I had hoped to repair had widened into a gash. I would have to replace it soon.
The cold wind bit right through my sweater, reminding me to move my feet, let go and continue on, no matter where this road would lead. But I was frozen to the spot. My feet had sprouted roots and in concert with my heart, were determined to keep me here, gazing after the bus that had deposited me. I felt like discarded waste.
My mind filled up with fuzzy pictures that mingled with the tears welling up from my soul that I could not control.
“Ma’am, you are going to have to leave the premises.”
The dark angry looking man with the severe red eyes said this to me when he asked me to leave my home. A home I had been building with him since the day we first met. We called it our forever home, filling it with the marks of our achievements, souvenirs of our adventures, jewels we had fallen in love with and paid more than we could really afford.
“Ma’am?”
The red eyed man had repeated his statement, speaking to me like an insolent, disobedient child. But he did not know. I could not blame him for doing a job he was being paid to do.
Another gust of cold wind blew red dust into my wet eyes, jerking me back to the desolate bus stop. I wiped my eyes and picked up the suitcase. It was time to abandon my haunt.
The buildings I was aiming for were huddled together, like little old women warming their feet around a fire. Yellow light gleamed out of the still open windows, flickering wildly in the wind, making the shadows leap up and crouch down in a crazy haphazard dance. The wind fought fiercely against me, so I leaned forward, pressing towards the cluster. It seemed to know that I did not want to be there and was determined to encourage me to stay at the bus stop.
Loud noises emanated from the buildings that were closest to mine, their conversation becoming a blur as my heart closed my mind to the chatter. A loud television commercial blended in with the clanging radio show and the sounds of pots and pans being washed in kitchen sinks. I kept my head low and walked as quietly and quickly through the group, careful not to be spotted by curious eyes. The misery that engulfed me did not cherish the idea of company. Not tonight.
The faded “Number Eighteen” sign stared cock eyed at me. It had been painted in white against the red brick wall and had been sprawled by an unpracticed hand, marking the location of my new home. Our forever home had been number fifty-six. At least I would not have to think about that every time I wrote my new address down somewhere.
The three stairs that led to the high door had been crudely constructed from cheap lumber and had been worn smooth by many feet. Two dirty bare foot prints leading from the door were the latest to grace them, leaving clumps of dirt as though the house had a mud floor. I climbed the stairs backwards, dragging the large suitcase behind me, each step creaking so loudly in my ear that I was sure everyone else heard it too. If they did, then no one came to look.
A simple latch was all the protection my new home had from intruders. The landlord had told me to bring a small lock to use. I opened the latch and tried to push the door in, but it stayed closed. I used my shoulder to shove it in, bursting into the small space with a loud bang.
It took a minute for my eyes to adjust to the darkness inside the house. I left the suitcase at the door, peering inside to get a good look.
A long thin bed stretched across the longest wall. A thin mattress had been provided by the landlord and was rolled up to one side of the bed. It had borne many bodies and was yellow with age. Chunks of the mattress had been lost from the edge making it look like a giant rat had hacked and torn off bits of it to build a nest. The spring bed had a few springs missing and some had been stretched so much, they had deformed. It was going to be an uncomfortable place to sleep.
A small table stood on the far corner of the room. A hot plate, dirty with use, sat upon it and when I lifted it to look underneath, a few cockroaches scurried out racing for other parts of the room. I bent down to put the hotplate on the floor and dark gleam caught my eye near the door. When I approached it, it quickly uncoiled and darted out of the room probably more scared than I was.
A cheap oil lamp made from empty margarine tins stood on the surface of another table. There were matches beside it. I struck a match and lit the lamp, dark black soot lifting from it and filing the room with the smell of burning kerosine. It made me cough and stung my eyes. At least now if anyone came in to say hello, there would be a good reason why my eyes were so wet.
A small note had been tucked underneath the matchbox.
“Welcome to your new home.”
My new home. I looked around the room, my brain working hard to replace the worn mattress with the one I had shared with him. My eyes were seeing our small kitchen where our elbows constantly knocked against one another while we made dinner instead of the burned rickety table. I heard the beautiful music we played while we relaxed, filling our forever home with sunshine. I lifted my arms above my head, waiting to be twirled. Then I remembered, he had called me his sunshine. My arms fell to my sides and my chest convulsed with the pain I had been holding in.
He was gone. Completely gone. One cold look and the man I had known and loved had been transformed into a stranger I knew nothing about. I lost him. Now I lost my home and this wreck, this hovel that I was going to be sharing with wild animals and vermin was my home. How had it come to this?
I walked to the door, a thousand heavy thoughts weighing down heavily upon me. I dragged my suitcase into the room and unzipped one side. I pulled out the long blanket we had used to warm ourselves on the couch and wrapped myself in it. I zipped the suitcase closed. No cockroaches tonight. I laid it down by one of the walls and sat on top of the ever widening tear. This would be where I sleep tonight.
The still open door creaked back and forth as the cold wind blew into the house. Occasionally the sound of little pattering feet of my new roommates rose above the noises from other homes. My knees and elbows hurt from the discomfort, but it suited me. It suited my misery.
I reached up to my face to wipe some of my tears away and saw that I was still clutching the note from the landlord. It was crumpled and balled up. I smoothed it out on my lap and let the words blur as my eyes read the message.
“Welcome to your new home.”

The book that changed my life

A few years ago someone gave me a book. She has been in the practice of sending me books she has enjoyed and I bless her every day for it. She knew I was at Uni and could not afford to purchase novels.

One of the books she sent me was Seed to Harvest.

Prior to this book, I had not read any speculative fiction that had a character who looked like me who I wanted to be. I was in my 30s and my sense of place in story telling was completely transformed. There was no turning back. If you have not read Octavia Butler’s work, please add it to the list of things you MUST do.

With Ms Butler on my mind, I launched into telling stories of a fantastical nature (Chapter One & Two), and the ride through my imagination was a rollercoaster.

So when I’m surfing online and I find pictures like this,

I’m ashamed to say that envy creeps up like a long discarded lover and tries to throttle me for leaving it.

I wish there was a way to tell Ms. Butler how much her work changed my life and my journey through imagining. You are missed, by those who knew you, and those who wish they had.

Confidence

Karibu Reader!

Have you ever experienced doubt? You get that question coming up through all the other noise bugging you and asking if you really are what you say you are, if you’re really doing what you think you’re meant to be doing.

When the little doubt I still possess creeps up on me, I have to do some serious ninja moves  to get back to writing and enjoying the process. I heard someone say something that inspired me to try and attack it from a different angle, PRACTICE.

writing-tip-10

It is very easy to forget to be confident about the things you do sporadically.

Mapenzi!

It’s your thing. Do what you wanna do.

Karibu Reader and Happy Father’s Day!

Toronto is finally warm and I find myself inexorably pulled outside basking in the sun.

As an author trying to offer entertainment to readers, I’m often baffled by the notion of trying to get fans. If I were to approach a random person (she’s a black woman like me) and ask her to purchase my book, what would I say to her? What exactly is she looking for in a story? A heroine who battles aliens? A dark handsome hero in whose arms she can rest safely? A challenging socio-economic situation that has been solved in the future using a solution currently unthought of? What does she want and how can I satisfy her?

That is a trap. Don’t ever succumb to the pressure of trying to sell your story to anyone. The beauty of art is that the audience falls in a spectrum (regardless of what genre you write) from those who love it and cannot live without it, to those who end up abhorring you, the writer, for coming up with such a story.

writing-tip-8

I’m a big supporter of supporting black artists, whose work is often marginalized. Watch this and support.