Rain pounds the smooth walk that winds through the garden. The wind reaches me with cold tentacles as I watch through the round window. In my mind, a song plays without words or voice. Yet, I know this song; this poem of kingdoms, and lords, and commoners. I perceive the words leaving the lips of folk long dead, and then dissolving with the winds that carry them into this abyss of today.
Today, I muse.
The kings of yesterday were but toddlers at their mothers' breasts when I ruled their worlds. I sat on a throne made of stone and bone. My right hand bore the jewels of my dominion: a silvered ring to rule over the Green Worlds, a copper bangle for the riches of the land, a gold and sapphire motto etched into a green bracelet, for the powers of all that ever breathed life. My mantle was fine silk, moulded from the true beasts whose secrets are yet to be revealed even on this day that has found me.
Yesterday, I was king over men and beasts. Today, I see my crown for what it has been: a rain drop on a blank sidewalk.
At Short Story Day Africa's #WriterPrompt events, participants are encouraged to write and edit a piece of flash fiction in a supportive online environment. Abdul-Sataar Bianconer's flash fiction was part of SSDA's 6th #WriterPrompt event, you can read the others here. He is one of thousands of hopefuls using Amazon Kindle Direct to try and launch a writing career. Tiah spoke to him about AKD and how writing has affected his powers of observation.
Tiah: You're originally from Ghana, now living in Europe. How have your three main writing themes - Faith, Football, Fantasy - helped you adjust to life abroad?
Abdul-Sataar: My writing journey, short as it has been, has really been a source of growth for me. I moved from just noticing things in the parks and streets to paying more attention to how people interact, which is important in getting to know people. For someone who was reading Economics at the time, it was important for me to be observant, and so that spilled into my academic life in some ways. I have since come to realise that an Italian says almost half of his thoughts using facial and hand gestures, and the Germans can indeed be wild if they wanted to, contrary to popular belief that they are always calm and collected. I have met football lovers and appreciated accents – my favourite – even more than I used to, as they serve as points for character development. This means appreciating people for what they truly are, rather than trying to see them through narrowed and biased lenses. I think I have become a better person. And no, none of my friends are in my stories.
Tiah: I see your name is already up on Amazon with Mama's Boy: The Thousand Day Journey. Can you tell me a bit about the book and your plans for the series?
Abdul-Sataar: It’s a fantasy/action adventure novella, the first in the Mama’s Boy Series. The book follows 17 year old Aldyn’s journey as he scours for a living in the cities to make a better life for his mother in the village. They are harassed by bloodthirsty marauders and under their complicated social structure, a family without representation in the village guard is deprived of protection whenever trouble comes. Aldyn became his mother’s representative as the only man in her family after the death of his father.
In one of the cities, Aldyn is declared a fugitive after escaping a death sentence, and he has to flee from mercenaries who want a share of the rich reward, and a monster from a storied age. In his escape, he hears news that the Marauding Clan that murdered his father are back, and Aldyn has to reach home in time to protect his mother and her ailing heart while trying to understand the feeling he has for Zangi, a girl he calls sister.
Mama’s Boy tells of the extent to which young men and women leave the comforts of their homes to tread dangerous grounds in search of better lives for their families and loved ones.
Going forward, I intend to retell the stories of Anansi the Spider using tools of fantasy and action adventure. The second book will touch on the myth of how the fabled character came by the secrets of the world and what it would mean for Aldyn and his mother who suffers a heart disease. I believe there is always a way of packaging children’s tales into narratives that are accessible to people from all walks of life, and I plan to do just that using the Mama’s Boy Series.
Tiah: You stated on your blog, "I believe a writer’s block is a problem of motivation. Rekindling your passion for writing or a project will let the juices flow."
How do you rekindle your passion?
Abdul-Sataar: When I am stuck in the middle of a chapter or scene, I go back to the very beginning and try to understand what it is I am writing in the first place. Normally, it would mean reading parts of the story that I have already written and looking at the notes I have made for future parts. In a way, it reintroduces me into the story again. It works for me because it allows me a proper perspective of what it is I am working on, and I am able to decide if the scene is necessary at all. If it is a vital part of the story, and even if I am not able to continue with that section, the pause enables me to start again from another segment and push the project forward in the right direction. The stumble then becomes a chance to gather my thoughts, as opposed to giving up and hoping the period will end by itself.
Tiah: What writers have influenced your writing?
Abdul-Sataar: I started writing not very long ago, and it was only then that I started to actually read. Yeah, it used to be just the textbooks.
From my meagre library list, Miss Adichie stands out for me on the continent. Americanah was a stimulating read, even though I didn’t like the way it ended. Chimamanda uses strong female characters to tell the different facets of life an African goes through, and it is refreshing the way she blends practices in Nigeria, like attitudes toward God and religion, with the perspective others have of Africans in general.
Being a fan of fantasy too, I enjoy the writings of Patrick Rothfuss, and his Kingkiller Chronicles remain the only works of fiction I have read more than once. Apart from these two, I am a big fan of self-published authors who have slowly made their ways into the mainstream the hard way. Hugh Howey is a perfect example.
Tiah: What advice do you have for any writers considering using Amazon as their publishing platform?
Abdul-Sataar: For starters, I am a novice in the system. My book was published on 31st August, 2015, and it is taking time to catch people’s attention, annoyingly! Given the advantages indie publishing has over the traditional tract, I will recommend Amazon to all who seek to launch their writing careers. It is the largest platform in the publishing world, so being visible there means a lot of exposure for your work. The large readership means more feedbacks for your work, and as a new writer, it can only be good news for your career when readers give you honest responses about your work.
I would suggest that a new author starts out with short fiction, as readers will be more willing to spend 99 cents – if you should price it at that – and a short reading time on an unknown writer. That means you get quick responses for your work and if they are good enough, you are able to quickly create more short stories or develop it into something bigger to capture their attentions. Hugh Howey started that way with his Silo series, and he is now among the highest rated authors on Amazon alongside the prolific Stephen King and the likes.
Despite all other advantages, including superior royalty payments of up to 70%, you should not join Amazon or self-publish if you are not ready to work in marketing your book. That is the reality, for until you are in the top hundred in your genre, readers are not going to just stumble on your book and make you a bestseller overnight. You have to spend time choosing the right keywords and tweaking the prices to have the right balance. It is an exciting challenge for me, and when you see the number of people who have made it already, you know it is only a matter of when you will make a breakthrough doing what you enjoy most.
Regardless of the hurdles, Amazon is built for readers. Writing the stories you love in the best way you can will help you gather a committed audience. God helps those who help themselves, I would think. ;)
The views expressed by Abdul-Sataar Bianconer are his alone and do not reflect the views of Short Story Day Africa.
Born and bred in Madina Zongo, a suburb of Ghana’s capital, Accra, Abdul-Sataar Bianconer moved to Europe in the summer of 2011 where he discovered his passion for writing. His ultimate writing goal is to introduce African stories to new audiences using elements of fantasy. He is currently based in Mainz.