Fiction Snippets – Zev’s Afrotheria Part 6

In a blink, Zev joined the most powerful army in the Afrotheria Empire at the age of seventeen. He had chosen to become one of those most feared and revered gangs of the land: The Theria Guild Guardians.

In his heart, he knew his choice had to do with the need to expend the rage that now ruled his life at the memory of watching a pack of ghost wraiths attacking his brothers and Gen.

If it weren’t for those ghost wraiths, he would have been there for Amare. He would have been able to keep her safe. A dark cloud of grief threatened to take him over.

Zev shook his head, pushing the constant grief aside.

His lungs burned for air, and sharp pain on his right side made it harder to run. Zev ignored the pain and powered through, his gaze on the red line drawn across the track ahead. He pushed his body harder and managed to run across the red line just as his body felt like it might collapse. He fell to his knees on the track and sucked in harsh breaths, hoping to relieve the pain. His t-shirt was soaked with sweat.

“Again, Mablevi! You’re too slow,” the instructor shouted, blowing his whistle. “One delayed second and you’re ghost wraith meat. Push harder. Get up and do it again!”

Zev glanced at his training officer standing on the sidelines caught between hate and worship.

Zev was in a class of fifteen cadets. Their instructor was a no-nonsense slave driver. The instructor subjected them to relentless running drills to improve their speed. Every part of Zev’s body felt sore, and his muscles burned. He took in air, his lungs desperate for it.

 Zev worried he would never get up to run again.

A strong hand gripped Zev’s left arm, pulling him up before he decided to lay down on the tarmac and give up. On his feet, Zev tugged down his sleeveless gray t-shirt and turned to his left to find an older boy grinning at him.

“He keeps yelling until you stop collapsing at the finish line. Hi, I’m Saul. I joined a month ago The trick is to remain standing at the finish line.”

Zev nodded.

A second boy around his age came up on Zev’s right and gave him a nod in greeting.

“I’m Noah. I will pace you so that you cut your time,” Noah said.

They headed back to the starting line, and Zev was oddly glad that he was not doing this alone. Noah and Saul each took a spot on each side of him. The instructor blew his whistle and they took off, Noah and Saul running next to him in camaraderie. It suddenly felt like training might turn manageable.

Three days later, Zev decided he was in over his head.

Zev stood in a Santi Corp Simulation Training Room. He was dressed in his white cadet armor, smart VR glasses clipped on the bridge of his nose. He held a Santi Sword, the blade designed to work in the simulation world.

“Mablevi, you’re seventeen, and you’ve never been in a simulation room. That means you’re late to the party. You have to work harder to catch up. We are starting you at the basic level,” the instructor’s voice rang through the large dome-like room. “This is your first test. Scenario: A forested village in the hills of Teru is facing a ghost wraith reap. There is no way to know the size of the ghost wraith pack. You only know the pack is traveling fast heading to unprotected villages. Your goal is to take down any ghost wraiths coming your way. Mission Commence: Cadet Mablevi, Basic Simulation 001, Start.”

Zev had no time to think, as the room turned dark and vegetation filled his vision.

The call of birds filled his ears with the sun high up above him. Zev imagined if he closed his eyes, he might inhale the scent of fresh crisp air. He took one step forward, and a ghost wraith jumped out of nowhere. He had no chance. The ghost wraith crushed him and the simulation ended.

 “You are dead,” the instructor said. “You have failed an entire village, Cadet. Only one rule matters: Stay focused, Mablevi. This is not a game. There is no one coming to save you. You are doing the saving. Do it again. Mission Commence: Cadet Mablevi, Basic Simulation 002. Start.”

Zev died ten more times in the simulation managing only two steps.

At the fifteenth session, he managed five steps, hoping by the thirtieth session, he would be able to see the ghost wraith coming at him. The realization of how fast a ghost wraith moved had Zev wondering if he could make it as a guardian.

***

Find the rest of this chapter on Wattpad or here: Zev’s Afrotheria Chapter 6

A Snippet of Fiction – The Price of Amber

Happy May! I’m so excited to share snippets of the story Ram and Amber, which now has a tentative name ‘The Price of Amber’. Still not in love with the title, in any case, I’m excited to have a 10K word count on this project.  There is nothing like getting started and having something to work on, instead of only planning.  Here is a look at the first chapter.

Chapter One

Kata right, kuja, kuja, sawa. Hapo! Hapo!”

Ram Jelani hit the brakes, stopping the tipper truck.  He leaned out his window to see his friend and business partner talking to their client.

“Amos,” Ram called out.

Amos hurried to the back of the truck and spent a few minutes unlocking the tailgate.

Mwaga,” Amos called to him and hurried to the side, giving Ram a thumbs up.

Ram nodded and engaged the controls to lift the tipper’s dump body.  The dump body of the truck lifted on hydraulics, letting out thirty tones of sand brought from the river.  Ram waited until it was all poured before he drove the truck forward to allow any excesses to pour out.

Ram’s phone rang and answered it, hands-free. His attention stayed on Amos and the two young men working with them.

“Ram, it’s Mom,” Candace Jelani’s voice filled the cabin.  “Where are you?”

“At a construction site in Othaya delivering sand,” Ram said.  “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t always call you because something is wrong,” Candace said.

“I told you I would be far today.  You must have an issue to call me,” Ram said, giving Amos a thumbs up when Amos called out that they had emptied the truck.

Ram lowered the dump body, drove forward, and brought the tipper to a full stop.  He parked and removed his phone from the hands-free mode.  He took it from its holder and brought it to his ear.

“What’s wrong?” Ram asked.

“Naria needs you,” Candace said with a sigh.  “She is stranded in Nyeri Town.  Her friends left her alone to pay for the table.”

“Mpesa her,” Ram said, annoyed by his little sister’s consistent letdowns.

“She doesn’t have her phone,” Candace said.  “She says she lost it last night.”

Ram bit his bottom lip not wanting to curse for his mother to hear.

Sawa, I’ll deal with it,” Ram said.  “Where is she?”

“White Rhino,” Candace said.

“Her tastes are getting expensive, Mom.  One of these days, you’re going to need to use your mwiko on her.  Why is it I’m the only one who knows what that mwiko is used for?”

“Keep complaining and I’ll give it to you when you get Naria home,” Candace said.  “You might be taller than me, but I can still smack you with a mwiko, Ram.  He, who are you joking with?”

Ram chuckled.

“Relax, Mom.  I’ll make sure Naria gets home after lunch,” Ram said. “Let me call when I have news.”

“Thank you, Ram,” Candace said and ended the call.

Ram started the truck and drove it out of the tight path leading to the construction site.  He drove it out to the exit of the access road and parked on the side of the main road.  Taking the keys, he jumped out of the cabin and stretched his arms over his head.

Amos hurried to meet him.

“Have they paid?” Ram asked.

“Yes, thirty thousand,” Amos said, waving their business phone. “Thank you for maneuvering the tipper.  The driver would not have made it.”

“I have to head out,” Ram said.  “Let’s meet in Karatina this evening.”

“Where to?” Amos asked, reaching into his pocket for car keys.  He handed them to Ram in exchange for the truck keys.

“To rescue Naria,” Ram said.  “I don’t know what to do with her.  Her friends are not friends.  She won’t believe it.”

“What happened now?” Amos asked.

Ram scratched his chin and shook his head.

“The story she gave mom sounds incomplete,” Ram said.  “I’ll need to hear it from her to know the truth.”

We,” Amos sighed.  “I’ll do the next delivery and call you later. Let’s meet at the usual place.”

Ram thanked Amos and hurried to the black SUV parked on the side of the main road.  He jumped into the driver’s seat and drove off with a wave at Amos.  Ram thought about Naria and his mother on his drive to Nyeri Town.

Naria was his half-sister.  She was younger than he was by ten years.  His mother had gotten her with her boyfriend, Zion Kavinde.  His mother, Candace, was soft with Naria.  She spoiled Naria and gave her everything she could.  Candace said she did so because Naria was a child born into an unsteady home.

Ram scoffed at the description.

Unsteady was a mild way to describe their tumultuous home life.  Broken home was more accurate.  The truth was that Candace Jelani still loved her husband, and Ram’s father.  She refused to divorce him and the affair she had with Zion was an attempt to heal her heartbreak.  Naria was born into a messy situation and there was nothing to do but cope.

Ram parked his car at the White Rhino Hotel and went in. He found Naria sitting at a table for two on the terrace.  She smiled when she saw him.

“Ram to the rescue,” Naria said with a quick smile, though it did not reach her eyes.

Ram pulled out the chair opposite her and sat.  He placed his phone and car keys on the table.  Crossing his arms against his chest, he sat back.

“I’ll settle the bill in exchange for the truth.”

Naria started to talk but Ram shook his head.

“If you don’t give me the truth, I’ll walk away,” Ram said, not caring that his mother would find her cooking stick and hit him with it.  He could take a little pain.

“Ram,” Naria said, her voice shaky.

Her eyes filled with tears and in a different setting, he would fall for this, but not here.

Ram pushed his chair back and started to stand up.

“Wait!” Naria said, reaching for him in a panic.  “Just wait a sec. I’m just…”

“The truth, Naria.”

“Fine,” Naria said, sitting back.  “Relax, please don’t leave me here.  I don’t want to call Mom again.”

“If you tell me, I’ll even buy you lunch,” Ram said, glancing at his watch.  It was just past twelve o’clock and he was hungry.

Naria sighed.

Aki, Ram,” Naria shook her head.

“Why are you here?” Ram asked, looking around the high-end hotel with a frown.  “Your budget does not allow you to be here.”

“I came with friends,” Naria started, clasping her hands on the table.  Her nails were a brilliant shade of green.  She was in a short black dress, her leather jacket shiny and there was smudged eye shadow around her eyes.

Ram sat back and crossed his arms against his chest, waiting.

To Be Continued!

Look for it on Wattpad, or Here. Hope your Friday is full of great vibes!

Zev’s Afrotheria – Chapter 4

It’s Fiction Friday. Zev’s Afrotheria is up to Chapter 4. I feel like I’m moving slow with this one, but still excited about the progress.

Do you prefer reading on an app? You can find Zev’s Afrotheria on wattpad.com too. Find the link below.

What is Self-Publishing?

What is Self-Publishing?

Self-Publishing is the act of an author taking on the process of writing, editing, formatting, printing, and marketing your fiction or non-fiction book. Following are five important aspects of self-publishing.

  • The author publishes their work independent of any publishing houses.
  • The author takes on all the costs and expenses of the process.
  • The author does receive all the sale profits: He or She retains control and ownership of his or her content.
  • The author registers ISBNs and Copyright Licenses in person. He or she is responsible for fulfilling any legal requirements needed in the process of publication.
  • Marketing and promotion falls to the author.  The author needs to work at discovering and cultivating readership in order to make sales.  It helps if you have a large network of supporters online and offline.  If you don’t, then it is a great idea to get started on cultivating readership of your work.
What is Self-publishing? Five points on Self-Publishing in Kenya.

Self-Publishing is different from Traditional Publishing.

In Traditional Publishing, a publishing house accepts an author’s work, edits and formats according to house standards, prepares the work for printing and takes on the marketing of the work. In this day and age, the author is no longer exempt from the marketing efforts and may have to complete tasks as assigned by the publishers to promote the work.

In Kenya, publishing houses do not need you to have a literary agent.  However, they do need you to send work that has content centered on the publishing houses’ preferred publishing genres.  Check out these four traditional publishing houses submission guidelines: East African Publishers / Moran Publishers / Storymoja Publishers / Mystery Publishers

Of course, there are more than these four publishing houses in East Africa, but I have highlighted companies who have clear submission guidelines on what they are looking for on their websites and the process of submission.

Now you know what Self-publishing is, and what to expect from the process.  Here is a tip on what you need to do to see profits from your hard work.  Approach self-publishing as you would a startup business.  Your books are a product.  A product that requires smart marketing and constant refining to attract your readers and keep them.

It is no longer about just uploading your book on Amazon’s KDP or Smashwords and keeping quiet, waiting for a reader to stumble upon your work.  The industry has grown and changed.  There are a lot more authors who are publishing on the same platforms, in the same way.  You now need to market your work and be outgoing about it, online and offline.

Self- Publishing will give you results depending on the amount of effort (time + money) you choose to pour into it. Don’t be afraid to take the first step.

Playlist – January 12th

Music is my go-to when I’m feeling a serious need to keep working.  Here’s my playlist of late:

1. Easy on Me – Adele

2. Burn – Ellie Goulding

3. Return to Love – Ellie Goulding & Andrea Bocelli

4. Cycles – Svrcina

5. Battle of the Bastards – Ramin Djawadi (Game of thrones ost)

6. Wild Life – One Republic

7. Fire on Fire – Sam Smith

8. Arcade – Duncan Lawrence

9. Bach, Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, Prelude – Yo Yo Ma

10. Heartache – One Ok Rock

From my playlist to yours, may you have mad inspiration in your creative journey.

On the Writing Desk – Work in Progress

A fresh new start for the year 2022.  I’m excited for new projects, and a new creative cycle.  Here is what is on the writing desk this year:

Zev’s Afrotheria – This is a story I’ve worked on off and on for the last few months. I’ll post it more often on this blog , look out for the chapters.

Zev Mablevi’s younger sister goes missing after a vicious attack on their home by ghost wraiths.  To find her, he needs the power of the Guardian Guild.  Zev gives up on his dreams to join the prestigious Tech Class and enters the Guardian Guild.  He works hard to join the most elite force in the guild on a quest to gain enough power to investigate his sister’s disappearance.  He soon meets Dahlia, a progressive scientist who believes she has found a way to win against the wraiths for good.  She needs a guardian who can take her to the top of the mountain where the ghost wraiths come from.  She promises Zev to help him find his sister if he gets her to the mountain and back.

Kipepeo – I started this during the 2019 nanowrimo cycle. I always feel it needs more work, so I’ll polish it up and share it soon.

Henson lives in a two-room house in with his mother and four siblings.  He wins a swimming competition in the local community center and wins a scholarship to Bayside College.  An elite school in the Lavington Hillsides.  There he meets Livia, the daughter of an affluent businessman.  They fall in love, but when her parents discover their relationship, they threaten to withdraw his scholarship. Livia breaks Henson’s heart to protect him.

Ten years later, Henson works in a reputable accounting firm in Nairobi.  He meets Livia, who is now managing her father’s business.  She needs help to save her family’s business from creditors.  Will Henson help her?

Jelani’s Empire – This is a tentative name for this story. In the books it is simply Ram & Amber. Hoping by the end of the year, it will be more than a shell.

Ram fights to recover his mother’s place in his family’s empire. This is a work in progress with no real blurb.  I’m lost in development world with it.

So much to do and write, and January is already underway.  ^_^ This is my list of work in progress.  I hope yours is going well too.

Notes Under the Door & Other Stories – Book Review

Notes Under the Door & Other Stories

By Michelle Chepchumba

Dead fathers. Critical mothers. Abusive marriages. Body insecurities. Young love. And always, expectations. Notes Under the Door is an anthology of seven African literary short stories that explores what it can mean to be a girl, a young woman, in a world that demands too much of women, and gives back too little. Set in urban Kenya, each story follows a girl or a woman grappling with the experience of being who they are – young, female, African, layered, complex, whole.

Book Review

Notes Under the Door & Other Stories is a collection of seven short stories.  Each story is a glimpse into a deeply profound moment.  A moment delving into the secret, complicated mind of Kenyan women at different stages of life.  The experiences described in these moments are tangible and feel very real.

Chepchumba’s characters speak on diverse, sensitive issues such as, unexpected pregnancy, and how hard it can be to acclimate to the dramatic change of life a baby brings.  She delves on relationships, and how hard they can be to maintain. A short story on domestic violence from the perspective of a young girl shows the impact it has on children. How domestic violence changes a child’s view of a parent.

Notes Under the Door gives this book its name.  It is a story tackling grief, obligations, and abortion. Each one of these adding on to the damaging effects on a mother at the time of abortion, and years later, when life continues on.

In Spilling into the World, a character asks, ‘…why can’t you decide you’re beautiful?’.  What a powerful question.  Spilling into the World looks at body image in a world where mainstream stereotypes impact women’s views of their own beauty, and their self-confidence.

A heartbreaking story told from the perspective of a young girl whose father does not look at her, nor treat her as ‘his princess’, concludes the collection.

Overall, Notes Under the Door & Other Stories reads like tales told from a best friend’s perspective.  Stories to make you feel, ‘Ah, I’m not alone in this. There are others like me.’ These stories depict women living experiences in our rapidly changing modern world.  They are a conversation to continue, and normalize.  I most enjoyed the realness of these short stories.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

(4.5 Stars)

Connect with Michelle on her blog

The Villainous Neighbor

It was less than two years after three children lost their daddy to a car crash.  The rawness of such a loss still fresh in their minds, the world seemed like a battlefield with every step.  Strangers turned to friends, while friends they had known left, not able to withstand the sense of grief clouding around the three children and their little mother.  It was a hard time for the small family of four.

Now, their home was a farm at the end of a stretch of land with a very muddy access road.  On very rainy days, a lake of sorts would form in the middle of the access road.  The mother of these three children would then have to find a way to get them across daily in order to get them to school.  There were two pairs of shoes to be worn.  Gumboots and rain coats to get through the massive swamp and school shoes to wear when the three children got to the bus stop.  The family that owned the property closest to the main road was kind and allowed a small path at the driest part inside their own farm away from the access road.  But even this little path would sometimes get hard to pass through.

In any case, the little family survived the best they could through the very rainy season and the massive swamp lake that formed in the middle of their access road.

One day, the neighbors who owned property opposite the little family’s farm opened a small gate on to their access road.  They wanted a second exit they said.  One that would allow them to have two gates.  One gate on their main road on the other side of their property, and the little one on the muddy access road with the swamp in the middle.

The mother of the children had no problem with this development.  In fact, she thought it would be a blessing.  Perhaps the kids would have an easier time going to school now.  They might use that small access to get to the drier road on the other side, and their path would be easier to school. 

In the dry season, this little gate never came to play for the little family.  Their access road was fine, and they went about their lives as usual.

Then the swamp in the middle of the road returned after a particularly rainy day.  It was holiday time, and the three children did not need to go to school.  However, their mother did want to send them to the shop, so she handed the three money and asked them to get a kilo of sugar from the shop.  They had seen others using the small gate made by the neighbors to escape the swamp, so they thought, ‘Oh, we can also try this gate.  It will be easier to escape mud and swampy water.’

They were nervous about it, after all this was a new route, but they thought they would try it and see if they could get to the other dry road.  After all, the owners also use their access road in the dry season.  All would surely be well.

They were wrong.

A panga is a Machette, very popular farming tool in Kenya

They barely made it to the opposite gate of the quiet property to the other road when a man came out swinging a panga from his house.  The panga was sharp, his words sharper and he chased them as one would chase thieves.  He screamed insults at them, and threatened to cut them to pieces, fear grew and the three children screamed running back home at the speed of light.  They forgot why they had ventured outside their home and went to find their mother.

When the three children ran home, their little mother was in shock at their crying faces.  She asked if they had been robbed off the money she gave for sugar, and tried to soothe them, wiping away their tears.  In minutes, she discovered their story and a burning anger fueled her to confront this villainous man who would dare threaten to cut her children with a sharp panga.

When she got to his gate, she asked him why he would do this, and he threatened the little mother, telling her to shut up or he’ll kill her.  This mother was not one to take insults quietly.  She screamed for help and the neighbors came.  As she was calling for help, this villainous man wrapped his hands around her neck and tried his best to rob her off breath.

It took three men to pull this villainous man off the little mother.  Her voice was hoarse from the assault. Her neck damaged. The three children were in shock.  Not less than two years ago, they had all buried their father after a car accident, now here was a man doing his best to turn them into orphans. Sinister yet, he was not sorry about it. 

It became clear that a path to the dry road on the other side was not worth this hefty price of death.

In any case, the courts became involved.  The villainous man was tried with attempted murder and the illegal path into the muddy access road was closed by a judge.

Life continued, as it often does.

Three little children grew up and in a blink twenty years passed.

Their little mother still struggles with neck problems, as a result of the assault on her neck.  Some nights she has to sleep with a neck collar.  The children often make sure it is new and available even when she travels. This was a price they paid for daring to think that all neighbors are made equal.

They all learned that the kindness of one family cannot be carried to the next family.  Their access road still gets terrible in the rain, but they endure and find ways to pass through it without complaint.  Muddy shoes are a much easier price to pay than death from murder by a villainous neighbor.

A few years ago, the villainous man’s family opened a path to the muddy access road again.  They use it unstopped by the little mother and the three children.  No pangas raised against them or hands wrapped around their throats in a grotesque picture of murderous intent. None of the villainous man’s family help fix the muddy road, after all they still have the other side to use during the rainy seasons.  This lesson is that the nature of a family’s values remains and does not change.

Recently, the little mother was helping one of her daughters transplant a tree from their gate into their farm.  She saw a woman pass their gate heading for the now illegal path at the end of their access road and said, “Ah, that’s that villainous man’s daughter. You should know her in case she comes to yell over electricity poles near their fence.”

Yes, the spectacle of a woman screaming over electricity poles has happened to the little mother, but that is a story for another day.

The little mother’s daughter spared the woman in question no glance.  After all that woman’s daddy almost cost her a mother.

“It’s better not to know or interact with them,” the daughter said. “Nothing good can come from it.”

“True, ” the little mother said, touching her neck.

In the end, the little family lives on, but the question still remains, what makes people so unreasonable as to want to murder over a small moment?

Can you forgive someone who tries his best to choke you to death because you asked a question about your children, who tried to pass a path this person’s opened, that others have used unstopped, but your children had to face a machette on the first attempt?  What would you do with this reality?

Life continues, as it always does.