Tag Archives: africa

VUTO Book Trailer

I am so thrilled to report that the official Vuto book trailer is now live! A big thanks to the wonderful Kevin Beaty for his work on this project. I hope you enjoy:

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Filed under Africa, Books, Gender, Politics, Vuto, Women, Writing

A Malawian Birth

The following is an excerpt from a journal entry I wrote after my return from Malawi, Africa, as a health volunteer with the U.S. Peace Corps. This experience directly impacted my decision to write my novel Vuto. Enjoy!


I had been in Malawi, Africa, for just over two months. At the time, I had already seen a slew of images I had never so much as imagined before: coffin-making shops, one after the other, down a village street; barefooted children playing with plastic bags and hangers in the dirt; albino beggars littering the roads of the country’s capital.

But this day, in August of 2007, I was given the opportunity to experience a live birth in the middle of an African village.

I had never seen a child being born in the United States, let alone in a Third World country with the bare minimum of medical care. The nurse at the clinic was younger than I was at 23. The mother was even younger. At 17 she had already had one child before who had died within a week of being born. Her skin was dark and coarse from years of tending the soil, pumping endless buckets of water, and walking the hard dirt roads without shoes. She was already six hours into her labor when I showed up to observe.

“Will she mind that I’m watching?” I asked the nurse.

“You are white. She will think you are a doctor,” she told me.

“Where is her family?”

At this, the nurse laughed at me. “There is no family. She must do this alone.”

In Malawi, and other parts of Africa, the birthing process is a journey the mother must make by herself. It is a test of strength. Even though this woman – or girl, rather – was calling out for her mother, the nurse told me she did not really want anyone to come to her aid. If a blood relative was there, it would be a sign of weakness. Not even a friend was allowed at her side.

She squirmed and moaned on a makeshift gurney, a sarong the only thing covering her. Within another hour, the nurse told me she was ready to push.

My mouth fell open and I strained for a closer look. The crown of her baby’s head emerged from between her legs. Within minutes, the head was out, then the shoulders and, finally, the entirety of a brand new baby girl entered the world.

The umbilical cord was cut by the nurse with a rusty razor the mother had brought with her. The baby was swaddled in a sarong, also brought by the mother for this purpose.

The placenta was pushed out and, five minutes later, Mom was up, cleaning herself of blood, amniotic fluid and feces. She was preparing herself to bring her daughter home.

Still in shock, I asked, “Why isn’t she happy?” I was the only one in the room with a grin on my face.

“Nobody knows how long she’ll live,” the nurse told me. “They will not name her for another week. If she dies before, the father will not consider her his child.”

The alienness of this world enveloped me then. A potential miracle turned tragedy to me was only reality to the Malawians.


Purchase Vuto today!

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Filed under Africa, Vuto

VUTO Endorsements

One of the many ways I prepared for the release of my third novel, Vuto, was to reach out to fellow authors, as well as readers to request endorsements for the book. I sent advanced review copies to anyone who was interested and, if they wanted to once they finished reading Vuto, they sent me back several sentences of recommendation for the book.

The following are the endorsements that have come in thus far for your consideration if you are still on the fence about reading it yourself:

Purchase Vuto now at Rocket Science Productions, Amazon.com or in the iBookstore.

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Filed under Africa, Vuto, Writing

We Did It! Kickstarter Success!

This morning marked the end of my 30-day Kickstarter campaign to fund the publication of my third novel, Vuto. The process from Day 1 to Day 30 has been incredible, from the stress and adrenaline of the first week and into the second, surpassing my initial funding goal in 9 days; to the 24-hour countdown in the last day of the project; to today, when it ended with this wonderful image:

I’ve said it before and I will continue to say it — I cannot fully express how unbelievably grateful and humbled I am from this experience, from the 197 backers who believed in me, and the countless other supporters who tweeted, Facebooked and blogged on behalf of this project and my novel. I am forever indebted to you all.

I am so excited to move on to the next phase of Kickstarter — fulfilling all rewards, and getting Vuto published and into my backers’ hands before getting it out into the world. There is still so much to come, so stay tuned!

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Filed under Africa, Vuto, Writing

Kickstarter Stretch Goals and Rewards

Hello to all of my wonderful Kickstarter backers and those to come!

We are doing so extremely well and I cannot thank you all enough. We have broken $4,200 as of this morning and I think $4,500 is in sight! If you recall, should we reach $4,500 by the May 9th deadline, I will film myself cooking a traditional Malawian meal and share it with all of my backers.

Image courtesy of paradiseintheworld.com.

Image courtesy of paradiseintheworld.com.

Since I have a great feeling that $4,500 is possible, I am adding yet another stretch goal as well —

If we hit $5,000 by Thursday, May 9th at 8:16am MST, I will publish an eBook that my backers will receive for free with poetry and short stories I have written over the years.

Image courtesy of ebooknobrasil.blogspot.com.

Image courtesy of ebooknobrasil.blogspot.com.

And don’t forget – all backers who increase their pledges by $7 will get a tote bag along with the rest of their rewards. Let’s make the next 3 days count!

Thanks, everyone! Or as they say in Malawi – Zikomo kwambiri!

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Filed under Africa, Vuto, Writing

Kickstarter Rewards En Route!

Great news for all of my current Kickstarter backers and those to come – the postcards, bookmarks and posters that are available to donors of various levels are being printed and will soon be en route to me to send to you! Here’s a sneak peek:

Kickstarter Rewards for VUTO

Kickstarter Rewards for VUTO

There’s still plenty of time left to donate and get some great rewards, including the above! Check it out HERE.

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Filed under Africa, Vuto, Writing

Only $600 To Go!

In just a week of campaigning, my Kickstarter campaign for my third novel, Vuto, has raised $2,400 of the $3,000 goal! I am learning so much as this process goes along, and I’m recording all of these tidbits of advice to create a blog with tips and tricks for Kickstarter campaigns once my own is finished. I’m excited to share with you!

One tip I’ll reveal now is to reach out to other bloggers in order to get interviews, guest posts and the like on multiple websites throughout the campaign. I started reaching out once my project had already launched and, while I’ve been able to gain interest from several bloggers in the past week, I’m sure if I had planned ahead that interest might be greater and I could have lined up a blog every other day or so for the entirety of the campaign. Nevertheless, I encourage you to check out the following sites that have posted something regarding my Kickstarter already:

And, of course, if you haven’t donated already, please consider doing so HERE. If you donate today or tomorrow, you’ll also receive one of several free eBooks from my publishing company, Rocket Science Productions!

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Filed under Vuto, Writing

NaNoWriMo Meets Blog 2007: The Witch Trials Aren’t Over

Today, November 15, back in 2007, I posted on my original blog, Peaceful Ponderings, about certain traditions in Africa that are antiquated and leading to the torture and death of hundreds, if not thousands. It only seems fitting to post this now as I take on WEEK THREE of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and my own Africa-based novel takes off.

Take a gander:

Most of us have heard about the Salem witch trials, or the drownings and burnings that took place in Europe centuries ago. In the Western world, we understand that this phenomenon was catalyzed by superstition and the inability to explain certain illnesses and weather, among other factors. But there are still places on this planet in 2007 where witchcraft is considered rampant, and innocent people, including children, are paying the price.

A New York Times article today entitled “African Crucible” by Sharon LaFraniere discusses the hundreds of children killed or cast out of their homes and communities under suspicion of being witches. Considering that the vast majority of Africa is considered to be the Third World, it is not hard to believe that there would still be misunderstandings akin to those prevalent in Massachusetts circa 1692. When cattle die, it is not because of a bovine epidemic, drought or lack of food, it is because a neighbor put a hex on them. When two parents perish at the hands of a mysterious illness, it is not HIV/AIDS, it is their child using magic because he is a witch.

LaFraniere writes, “In parts of Angola, Congo and the Congo Republic, a surprising number of children are accuses of being witches, and then are beaten, abused or abandoned.” She goes on to state that by casting these children out of the community, there is less pressure to provide for them, allowing other family members to eat more; a definite bonus when you are in a situation akin to near starvation. It may be difficult to believe that a family would actually fabricate a witchcraft accusation against a son or daughter just so they could have a little more food for themselves at the dinner table, but sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures.

In my opinion and, I’m sure, in yours as well, the measures that have and are being taken in these regions of the world are beyond desperate – they are horrific. LaFraniere reports on the actions of “a Luanda mother [who] blinded her 14-year-old daughter with bleach to try to rid her of evil visions. In August, a father injected battery acid into his 12-year-old son’s stomach because he feared the boy was a witch…” It is incomprehensible to me how anyone could take such actions against anyone, let alone their own children. Such accounts go to show just how ingrained superstitions are in these cultures.

These three nations are not the only ones where these beliefs are rampant. Indeed, when I was living in Malawi I heard of similar circumstances as well. At a dance by the Guli Wam Kulu, an animistic religion native to the area, I witnessed a mentally-disturbed man who was attempting to entertain the audience. It was obvious to us Westerners that he must have had a mental disability, but when I asked a Malawian the answer was usually that the man was possessed, or a witch. Nobody got to close to this man, and when he tried to take money from the dancers, he was quickly chased away. Nobody wanted anything to do with them. They simply ignored him until he became enough of a nuisance to take action. Certainly, nobody wanted to help him.

An interesting aspect of African witchcraft, at least in Malawi, is that it cannot be used against blood relatives. Obviously, considering familial cast outs, maimings and killings described in Angola and Congo, this is not true everywhere. It is near impossible to change these beliefs when even national officials, professionals and medical personnel are believers. If a person cannot get the medical assistance they desire at a health facility, they will turn to traditional medicine – witch doctors. If a hex is suspected on themselves or a family member, for instance, the doctor will put a hex on their enemy who will, in turn, come to the doctor to hex them back. Fairly ludicrous to us, but downright understandable to many places in Africa. In Angola, healer João Ginga, 30, casts bad spirits out of people inside a narrow, mud-walled room. “”If someone has a bad spirit, I can tell […] We treat more than a thousand cases a year.”” The man’s business is definitely lucrative with clients paying in cash, candles and perfume among other items they can come up with. Some of the methods are questionable at best. Here are some examples:

– Poultice plant inserted into the anus

– Head shaving

– Two weeks of sequestering

– Upside-down suspension for a night

Is it any wonder why a child would confess to a crime they did not commit after going through such torture? Unfortunately, even if they do and even if a healer like Ginga treats a patient, a family is not always content, casting them out nonetheless.

There are steps being taken slowly in countries like Angola where the atrocities have been escalating. “The Angolan city of Mbanza Congo, just 50 miles from the border with Congo, has blazed a trail. After a child accused of witchcraft was stabbed to death in 2000, provincial officials and Save the Children, the global charitable organization, rounded up 432 street children and reunited 380 of them with relatives, the witchcraft report stated” (LaFraniere). After such actions took place, the prevalence of child outcasts has definitely dropped. In Uige, a city 100 miles north, however, the opposite trend is occurring; child persecution is rising.

As long as these beliefs remain ingrained in people’s heads, it is unlikely significant change will occur any time soon. It is nearly impossible to make alterations when you are battling against culture, and that is what is happening; not just in terms of witchcraft, but female genital mutilation, AIDS and wife inheritance as well. The grassroots campaigns against these phenomena educating people on the ground are truly what is going to make a difference. Let’s hope that one less child dies today so a hundred less can die a month from now.

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Filed under Africa, AIDS, Politics, Social Justice