Thursday, February 27, 2014

Homophobia is Un-African

First it was the passing of the Nigerian homophobic law, and now it's been done in Uganda. The Ugandan law gives a life sentence to anyone who engages in a same sex relationship. It also gives the state the power to extradite Ugandans outside the country who are practicing homosexuals.

The hatred surrounding these laws is astounding. Often proponents say homosexuality is un-African, an import from the West, but a cursory look shows this to be untrue. The fact that many indigenous languages have words for homosexuals proves that they were there before the colonisers set foot on the continent. And here is more proof if you need it.

Most African societies have a version of botho as part of the foundation in their culture. According to the University of Botswana botho means:

 'Botho' is derived from Tswana, the national language of Botswana. The Botswana people use the term botho to describe a person who has a well-rounded character, who is well-mannered, courteous and disciplined, and realises his or her full potential both as an individual and as a part of the community to which he or she belongs. Botho is an example of a social contract of mutual respect, responsibility and accountability that members of society have toward each other and defines a process for earning respect by first giving it, and to gain empowerment by empowering others.

Botho alone dictates that the behaviour of the continent's homophobes is un-African.

This homophobia is an imported idea. It was brought here by the foreigners wanting to control Africans every way that they could, including in the bedroom. It is being refueled by foreigners yet again; this time by the ultra-conservative religious people primarily in the United States. In Uganda, for example,  a workshop was held by a man called Scott Lively, an ultraconservative American homophobe. The agenda of the workshop according to The New York Times was- "how to make gay people straight, how gay men often sodomized teenage boys and how 'the gay movement is an evil institution' whose goal is 'to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity'. 

 This sort of hatred was used before. A religious justification was found for Apartheid. It was found for segregation. The breakdown of the family (the white family) was the justification for the vehement laws against mixed marriages. All of these were proven to be nothing except unjust bigotry. Eventually these homophobic laws will be seen in the same light.How many lives will be destroyed before that happens one can only imagine.

So as the homophobes run and shout and wreck havoc in the lives of the continent's gay Africans, thinking they're upholding African traditions with their hatred, they should realise they've been mentally colonised yet again.  They are merely the puppets of others, nothing more. And when they realise this, we can only hope all of this injustice will fall away.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Vanishings- the cover!!

Here's the beautiful cover of my latest book- The Vanishings, a detective/thriller set in Maun published by Black Crake Books. It will be out this next month. Look out for details about the book launch.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Writing about Love

Love is in the air and you might get swept up in it and decide it is time to take a stab at writing romance. Some people are mistaken into thinking that romance writing is easier than other types of fiction writing, that there is some easy formula to follow. I once had a conversation with a writer of literary fiction who was undermining romance writing and I told her at the time that she should try to write “the first kiss” scene in a fresh exciting way and she’ll get an inkling of how tough romance writing can be. Romance readers want good writing and good writing requires developed plots and characters.

The Basic Ingredients of Romance Fiction
1. A heroine the reader can identify with
Most romance readers are women and they want the heroine to be someone they like. The heroine doesn’t need to be exactly like the readers, but she must be someone they can empathise with. They must understand her motivations. They must see some bit of themselves in her.
2. An irresistible hero
Your hero must be someone the readers fall in love with too. He doesn’t need to be the best looking guy in the room, often the most irresistible men aren’t. Big and brawny is not what most women are looking for. They want men who are intelligent, empathetic, and funny. At least that’s what the polls say.
3. A believable plot
How likely is it for the rich business man to fall deeply in love with his uneducated maid? Not very, let’s be honest. And though Shakespeare got away with women disguised as men, it’s not a plot most modern readers will buy. Your plot should have a lot of twists and turns, but they should be believable.
4. A happy ending
Romance fiction ends with a happy ending, the hero and heroine overcome whatever is keeping them apart and by the end of the book the two finally get together. It doesn’t have to be marriage or even them falling into bed together, it could be that they finally get passed whatever has been keeping them from being together.

Tips for writing romance
1. Saying “I love you” is not always the best way of saying I love you
I love you in dialogue is a bit boring. Try something fresh. Your heroine has been away for 27 days. She returns and she’s with your hero. She asks, “How have you been?” He says, “I had 27 bad days, but everything’s perfect today.” That screams love, doesn’t it?
2. Make your readers love your hero by his actions
He loves a certain kind of chocolate, but when his sister is visiting and there’s only one left; he lets her have it. He’s late for an important meeting at work, but half-way there he realises he forgot to feed his cat and he turns and goes back home to do it. The annoying old lady from down the street is visiting and doesn’t want to leave even though it is obvious to everyone but her that the hero and heroine want time alone. Though he can’t wait to be alone with his love, he walks the old lady home because she’s afraid of thieves in the night. All of these help to show the reader how great your hero is.
3. No one is perfect
Be careful not to make either your hero or heroine too perfect though. Give them flaws. Maybe she’s arrogant. Maybe he is a bit unambitious. The flaws can add to your tension that keeps them apart.
4. Tension must guide the plot
Tension in romance is caused by the reasons they cannot be together. There is external tension. They can’t be together because he lives in Harare and she lives in Joburg. They can’t be together because her mother hates him. That’s external tension, things happening outside of them. But internal tension is more powerful. She can’t be with him because she still thinks she loves her old boyfriend. He can’t be with her because he slept with her sister and he feels too much guilt.
5. Decide on how hot it’s going to be
A lot about the hotness of the intimate scenes will decide on the author’s preference, but also where you intend to send the manuscript. You should read the publisher’s guidelines. Nowadays most romance publishers have a wide range of imprints that cater for various amount of hotness all the way up to erotica so you should be able to find a place where your story fits.

Good luck getting romantic!

(This first appeared in my column in The Voice newspaper, It's All Write, 14 Feb.,2014) 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Believing Pretty Lies (A Valentine's Day Story...or not)

 It was easy for a long time, like sleeping too late in warm blankets on an icy day. She knew she’d have to leave at some point, but not just yet. They were not outrageous lies; they conformed to what people expected, what people saw, so it was not difficult to believe them. It felt right. It was easy. Easier to just stay put and believe their kind music, so soothing to her ears.

There was the first clue, early on, when the blush of love was still worn like a proud shiny medal.  Someone told someone who told her. She asked him, and he said no and she believed him. Of course she believed him. Who believes strangers? This man loved her, anyone could see. Even she could see that, she told herself. 

Time passed. Each year putting down another intricate layer of silk in the web of their life. Criss-crossing each other. Light and airy; as strong as a steel trap. 

They were connected and that connection itself made it easier to stay, made it nearly the only option.  Phone calls and text messages. Presents hidden under car seats never meant for her. Clues, clues, clues. But she didn’t want to be a detective, did she? She closed her eyes and clicked her heels and wished it would all disappear. It did, sort of. Only her heart held it, heavy, carrying the burden of all of those lovely pretty lies. 

Everything was fine. She repeated it like a mantra over and over. It was all about putting it out there so the universe could give you what you desired. It was a secret. So she put the pretty lies she told herself out there into the universe so the universe would turn them into the truth. 

The problem was, she wasn’t that woman really. She’d never been. She had a rational mind. She did not need the crutches of pseudoscience and religion. In this case, though, so she could keep going, she tried to call it something else. She tried to call it trust. She’d read the magazine articles just like you. She knew trust was important. Not fairy dust, but an ingredient for making everything work. 

So the pretty lies became trust and the years passed and passed, and her heart turned in on itself. Did you see how she was eating herself away to nothing? Did you notice that? 

Then on a certain day the scales tipped. The curtain fell and the universe’s secrets failed to pitch up. The stage was bare and empty, and there she was, lonely as a bird in a cage, flapping, flapping, flapping.

She begged for the ugly truth which she never got. It was too late now though. She was no longer a believer and never would be again.  She began pulling back the threads, untangling, cutting them where she needed to. They scratched her. The wounds bled. Some left ugly scars, some never healed at all, and oozed and oozed and reminded her of her battle to get free, of her years of thinking lies were true. Bare unadulterated truth was tough to look at, it burnt her eyes and left a bad taste in her mouth, but she’d learned, in the hardest way, pretty lies were deadlier, even if they were smiling.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Grass Seeds and Footwear Problem: My Solution

My foot

It is grass seed season. If you, like me, like to walk about in the bush, you will know the headache caused by grass seeds. I come back each day with shoes, socks, and trousers covered in grass seeds. And if you, like me, have attempted to remove the grass seeds, you will know it is the work of mad people with infinite amounts of time on their hands. It is scientifically impossible to remove grass seeds from socks. I think this may be a scientific law. I'm not sure about that. But if it isn't it should be.

So how to solve this pesky problem?

What I have decided is that you must have your grass seed season socks and your grass seed season shoes. Once the grass seed season footwear is chosen, you must wear only this chosen footwear when walking in the bush during grass seed season and you should not attempt to remove grass seed or wash the footwear during the grass seed season.

Depending on your budget, you can do one of two things at the end of the grass seed season. For socks, the best thing, I've found, is to throw them away. I know that sounds wasteful, but removing grass seeds from your grass seed season socks could really cut into your precious time on earth and as mentioned above it is impossible. Your grass seed season socks, no matter the time you put in or the effort exerted will NEVER be free of grass seeds. That is a scientifically proven fact and it is best not to monkey around with scientifically proven facts.

Grass seed season shoes are usually easier to deal with. You might set aside a day (two at most) to remove the seeds from your grass seed season shoes so that they can go back to being just shoes. Grass seeds seems to have less affinity for shoes. (Note: if you are a scientist, this might be a potential area of research)  If you are very reckless, you could throw your grass seed season shoes away at the end of the season too, but I don't advise this course of action. Shoes are expensive.

Alternatively, you could, at the end of the grass seed season, put your grass seed season socks and your grass seed season shoes in a plastic bag and store them away for the next year's grass seed season. This is a perfectly acceptable way to attack this problem especially if you do not have a spare day or two to set aside for removing the grass seeds from your grass seed season shoes and you suspect that situation will persist for the coming years.

You might be saying to yourself- "But hey, grass seeds left on grass seed season socks and grass seed season shoes make my feet and ankles itchy when I wear the designated footwear". Yes, I contend that this is the case. But with a bit of mental discipline you can teach yourself that the minor itch and irritation of the grass seeds against your skin is a pleasant sensation. This is a good mental exercise that can spill over to other facets of your life. It can be implemented when dealing with the myriad of unpleasantness we face everyday.

NOTE: If there are any scientists out there who build shoes and socks, I would like to let them in on a little research project I've been conducting regarding grass seeds. The photos below are of a tall dog and a short dog immediately after walking in the bush during grass seed season. As you can clearly see there are no grass seeds attached to their feet or bodies (in the case of short dogs).

Small dog foot and body

Big dog foot

The questions for all of the scientists out there is- WHY? What about a dog's fur, which appears to me to be a reasonable enough place for grass seeds to attach, repels them? Whatever that substance is, I suggest that shoe and sock engineers get a pile of it and cover their products with it. I, for one, would be first in line for those shoes and socks. It would solve the entire grass seed season and footwear problem for the world and that would be quite a good thing.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

I'm Interviewed at Africa Book

I have an interview over at Africa Book Here's an excerpt responding to the often asked-"Did you always want to be a writer? "

No, writing was not something I always wanted to do. I’m a generalist. I’ve done many things, I have been a teacher, a business owner, a waitress, and a nurse assistant and… many other things. I suspect before I die I’ll do many other things too. I came to writing because I have always loved stories. I wanted to get more involved with them.
I’m not trying to tell anyone’s story. I’m a single person I represent no one but me. I certainly cannot presume to tell the story of Africa or Botswana, there are an infinite number of stories, each unique and different. I’m only telling mine, the ones that come to me. 

To read the rest of the interview go here