Picture Weekend - Historical sites in Asaba, Nigeria

Happy New Year everyone! We are now in 2011 and I want to use this opportunity to wish everyone a glorious next 365 days. It hasn't really started off well with the bomb blasts in Abuja yesterday but we push on. It will definitely be a year of achievement and building upon what has already been made. May we all attain greater heights in the coming weeks and months. I appreciate you all!

I'm still in Nigeria and enjoying Asaba my hometown. Enjoy the pics of some of the tourist destinations...


















Networking: Lola Akinmade and Ada Agbim

Hello everyone, hope your holidays are going well. I don't know about the other places but today is also a holiday in Nigeria, hehehe....I want to wish everyone a successful and happy New Year in Advance. May we achiever all our dreams and our projects be met with success! On that note; one major advantage of blogging is the social networking aspects. I continue to credit the early success and  AHTM buzz to blogger's support and interest. And it is with pleasure that I share these two bloggers with you and their dreams and events.

1. Lola Akinmade is a Nigerian Blogger who shares travel stories and pictures from her base in Sweden. She wrote me to humbly solicit your votes if you haven't cast it yet to support one of her dreams. Quark Expeditions will be sending a writer to the North Pole to document and provide engaging reports about the trip in June 2011 and they have opened the spot to interested travelers via voting. Lola has registered and really would love to represent as a Nigerian travel writer and photographer! Please vote and promote Lola here - http://www.lolagoesnorth.com/

Every single vote counts towards finally making Lola's childhood dream a reality and she's currently a front-runner (3rd) and the top 5 to qualify to the final judging round. Equally as important, please forward the link to friends/family/colleagues/other networks as well - www.lolagoesnorth.com ("Lola Goes North") - to anyone who you feel can help. Every bit helps. Thank you!

2. Ada Agbim also wrote me through this blog. She was recently certified to teach two awesome group fitness programs in the US and is looking to bring them to Nigeria. This Christmas, she is doing a little preliminary research to see how receptive Lagos would be to the programs and would love to get as many people to try the class out. Please choose a date that works for you and join Ada and her class, I'll try to attend the FREE events on January 6th and 7th, wink wink...

IKOYI
Monday December 27 - 8:30AM – Lifequest Gym – N1000
Tuesday December 28 - 7:00AM – Priscilla’s Pride Day Spa and Gym – FREE
Wednesday December 29 - 7:00PM – Lifequest Gym – N1000
Thursday January 6 - 7:00AM – Priscilla’s Pride Day Spa and Gym – FREE
Thursday Januayr 6 - 6:00PM – Lifequest Gym – N1000
LEKKI
Thursday December 30 - 11:00AM – Barazahi – FREE
Tuesday January 4 - 6:00PM – Bodyworks Fitness – N1500
Friday January 7 - 8:30AM – Barazahi – FREE
Saturday January 8 - 8:00AM – Bodyworks Fitness – N1500
VI
Sunday January 2 - 8:15PM – Eko Gym and Spa - Free
Monday January 3 - 8:15PM – Eko Gym and Spa - Free
Wednesday January 5 - 8:15PM – Eko Gym and Spa - Free
Friday January 7 - 8:15PM – Eko Gym and Spa - Free

*For a strength training alternative, join us at

IKOYI
Monday December 27 - 8:30AM – Lifequest Gym – N1000
Wednesday December 29 – 6:00PM – Lifequest Gym – N1000
Thursday January 6 – 7:00PM – Lifequest Gym – N1000
VI
Tuesday December 28 - 7:15PM – Eko Gym and Spa – Free

Address:
BARAZAHI: 16 Fola Osibo Street. Lekki Phase 1
PRISCILLAS PRIDE DAY SPA AND GYM: 272B Corporation Drive, Dolphin Estate, Ikoyi
LIFEQUEST GYM: 37 Glover Court, Off Glover road. Community Club Complex, Ikoyi
BODYWORKS FITNESS: 3 Obafemi Anibaba st, off Admiralry rd. Lekki Phase 1
EKO GYM AND SPA: 9 Akarigbere Close, VI

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ps; Please feel free to let me know if you need any events or projects publicized here. It will be my pleasure to feature you.

Heaven Why? 2

Merry Christmas everyone and I wish for 2011, an even more enjoyable and successful year! The story continues..

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“What’s for breakfast mom?” Tony asked as he bounded into the kitchen.

Her son was big for his eight years with a full head of hair and light colored eyes. “What would you prefer?” Ure asked, smiling at him.

“Pancakes?” He asked hopefully knowing his mom didn’t like making those on school mornings. That was why he just loved weekends. He got as much as he wanted.

“No pancakes today as I’m sure you already know,” Ure smiled as she moved to the cereal cupboard. “I bought your favorite rice crispies yesterday.”

“Yay,” Tony laughed, his head stuffed halfway down his man-sized backpack. “But mom, you didn’t tell me you went shopping; I would have gone with you.”

“I went to Grand Square from the bank yesterday since I also had to pick up some other stuff quickly, we’ll go properly on Saturday.” She poured some cereal in a bowl and placed it with the milk before him as she back before her breakfast.

“Good, I want to have a look at the Xbox again,” he looked at her with his puppy eyes as he began to eat, “Mom…”

“No, no, no! No momming me this time. We are not getting the Xbox till you’re ten young man, isn’t that what we agreed?”

“But mom that’s still two years away,” he grumbled.

“A year and one month,” Ure corrected. Your ninth birthday is next month…”

“Can I get it for this birthday then? Tony asked hopefully.

Ure looked at him in silence as she munched on her toast, till he looked away and focused on his crispies. “We’ll be leaving in fifteen minutes, have you got all your homework and stuff?”

“Yes mom, but can I take out these oranges from my lunch?”

Ure threw back the last of her tea and stood up, “Only if you will take a banana. You need fruits, Tone, not just biscuits.”

He made a face and went back to his breakfast.

Ure went into her room, still thinking of the Xbox. It wasn’t just that the game box was out of their budget, she also worried that if she got one, Tony would soon be demanding or bringing home some age-inappropriate games to play on it. Well, she’ll see how the year ended and may surprise him at Christmas. They both needed cheering up.

It was eight thirty on the dot when they left the apartment in Jabi enroute to Tony’s school and onwards to her office. Tony was dressed in the white short sleeves and black shorts of his school uniform and his shoes shone with polish in the morning sun. He was logging along the heavy bag and Ure frowned.

“What’s in that bag?”

“Books and stuff,” he muttered getting into the passenger seat after dumping the backpack in the back seat. “We have music lessons today and I want to show Taiye how the new Lego set works.”
“Be sure not to lose any of the pieces OK?”

“Sure mom,” he replied beaming.

Ure smiled back and drove out of the gated compound made up of four apartments. Musa held open the gates and one of her neighbors was right behind her with his two children in the back seat. She waved to them as she turned the corner. When they got to his school, Tony bounded in like a large puppy calling out to one of his numerous friends. Then he turned with a grin to wave at his mom, as she remained parked for a minute. She blew him a kiss, waved but waited till he had gone inside before she drove away.

The smile on her face masked the swirling emotion within her. Looking on her son everyday stirred deep feelings, he reminded her so much of his father. This was usually not a wholly bad thing but today it was like a knife to her heart. God why? She allowed the painful memories fill her mind as she drove into her office complex.

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To be continued...

Short Story - Heaven Why?

Happy Christmas in advance to everyone!  I hope everyone is doing good. I really miss coming over to your blogs and catching up. I crave your understanding for not starting Cupid's Risk as I planned, my schedule has been so muddled up. Well this was supposed to be the beginning of an idea I came up with for the blog interactive. I have left it as a short, enjoy...


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Ure lay in bed that Monday morning and reviewed details of her activities for work that day. She was meeting one of her more difficult clients later in the day and she wasn't looking forward to presenting the proposals she had prepared for them. Luckily her manager was going with her and her usual partner. They were looking to increase the customer’s advertising budget by a few more millions. If they got it, she were halfway to her target and that was no mean feat seeing it was still the first month of the quarter. She loved her job as an advertising consultant/marketer but it could be draining sometimes as well.

Thoughts of Yemi's birthday occupied her as she took her bath and dressed up. Yemi had been her friend from University, her bridesmaid when she got married to Azuka in London and her rock after her husband passed away and they’d had to return to Nigeria. It was Yemi’s 35th birthday and several friends had been invited. She had already decided on her outfit and was putting together the accessories in her head as she dressed for work.

At the kitchen table later, she forgot all about fashion as she sat glaring at the invoice for her son’s school fees for the term. He attended The Regent Schools Abuja and the fees had just been hiked by almost 20 percent. If she’d thought the cost had been through the roof when he’d been admitted, now they were in the stratosphere. Well she liked their mixed curriculum and being that Tony had only stabilized this year after the tumultuous period three years ago. The poor boy had had to deal with losing his father and moving from the only home he’d known in London.

No, she couldn’t think of withdrawing him now. Well not while she could still afford it, who knew what would happen in future? The events surrounding her husband’s death had thought her to take each new day as it dawned. Wasn’t it the bible that said sufficient unto the day was the evil thereof or something along those lines? She remembered that her son’s teacher wanted to see her. Her son had been doing fairly well in his lessons for the past few months and she hoped he was not retrogressing. It would be a shame if something happened to upset the balance they’d been able to establish both at home and at school.

She took a deep breath and exhaled...

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To be continued...

Picture Weekend - Infusion 11 in Abuja

Happy holidays everyone, hope you're all getting set for Christmas? I'm doing good, still here in Nigeria, but missing our little tradition with Atala of putting up the Christmas tree and beginning to shop for gifts and food. But well, I'm surrounded by other family here and of course all the blogfam that I've been meeting in the past few days. There is a blogger or more in the following pictures and you'll have to guess who they are, lol...

Have a great weekend all...



















For those in Abuja, Nigeria - Infusion 11

I look forward to seeing you at this event.


From Farafina Blog

Infusion is a regular evening of book readings, music, stand up comedy, open mic poetry and poetry slams, with an artistic ambience. Infusion events take place on the last Thursday of the month, bringing together all lovers of art, literature, music and entertainment. It also brings together readings by established or budding authors and poets, floetic music, humour, drama, eclectic art and unpredictable performances.

Hosted in the charming environs of JB’s Grill in Maitama Amusement Park, Abuja, you get to try out the exclusive Infusion Cocktail, the Infusion Platter and Infusion Cupcakes for your culinary delight.

Infusion, as the word denotes, seeks to inject a new artistic pulse into the Abuja social diary. A place to wine, dine and enjoy good poetry, art, music and literature.

Writing and publishing in the age of social networking - My experience

It was August 2009, and I had decided to start writing full time a few months earlier. I had joined a writing group and somebody suggested blogging too. Since then, my blog has proved indispensable. I had started first by sharing my work-in-progress and as feedback poured in, I was encouraged and inspired to continue. Honestly I love being read and that is the opportunity I appreciate most of all from blogging. I also want to get better and blogging is the perfect way to sample a wide variety of opinion. Not all criticism is constructive of course and it helps that I can discuss these comments with my writing group. I have also taken part in several writers’ blogfests, which are useful not only because of the writing involved but the critique from fellow writer-bloggers. This way I’ve received professional feedback on my writing exercises, scenes from my WIP, and short story drafts.

In addition to my writing group and blogging, I polished my writing craft and style through freely available online writing courses. The critique from my writing group showed that they were taking effect on my work. Soon, I wrote ‘The End’ to my WIP, which had grown from a novella to a complete manuscript, and I began to shop for publishers. I queried traditional publishers in the United States but their replies showed that they preferred a story set in the US which was their major market or if it had to be African, then literary fiction. I really wanted to tell a contemporary Nigerian story which Nigerians would love to read something simple and easy to read. So I looked to Nigeria but there were not that many publishers and the few I discovered appeared resource constrained.

So I began to study alternative means of publishing. I researched Lulu – whom I actually used for an initial eBook – Authorhouse, and other so-called Vanity Presses. I kept an open mind as I read the testimonials of those who had used them in the recent past. I found that most of the successful ones were full-time writers and they’d had a prior audience before self publishing. As both of these factors described me too, I saw that this avenue was worth a try. Others factors I considered included the fact that the publishing world has begun to come to terms with the internet age and Print-on-Demand (POD) was becoming a valid choice of getting a book to an audience. The new technology and the advent of eBooks and e-readers like kindles, Nooks , etc. meant that the cost of producing books were no longer too exorbitant for an individual.

My decision was made when I considered who I wanted to be my audience. Most of my blog followers had been reading A Heart to Mend as excerpts on my blog and I wanted to give them a chance to read the whole story. I also found out that most publishers would not accept a manuscript that had been published online and so my traditional publishing choices were limited. Also, I knew that this story was just a first outing and there were several more stories to come. So I said to myself; “traditional publishers could come later if necessary, self-publishing it is!” My earlier research had shown that I needed a way to take some of the burden off and I chose AuthorHouse because they assign an author a production team. I also liked that they had access to the major retailers in America, Europe and the UK and a lot of author resources to guide one through the stages of marketing and publicity.


Delivering my paper on the interactive session I facilitated at the Garden City Literary Festival on the "Rise of social Media and the Nigerian book publishing industry".


The main advantage of self-publishing for me is that as the author, I have full control over the content, design, and marketing of my book. I also decide when it goes to press and I retain all the publication and subsidiary rights. I was thus free to penetrate a niche market like Nigeria, which a commercial publisher outside of Nigeria would have ignored. (I know of several books by Nigerians, set and written in Nigeria but published in the UK or USA, which are yet to be distributed in Nigeria). I also believe that my book had a greater chance of success because I was very committed to promoting it, more than say, a publisher who has hundreds of other titles. In terms of sales, A Heart to Mend has been doing relatively well and I get most of the net revenue. I want to point out that apart from the commercial success, there’s also that deep satisfaction of knowing your creative work is out there making and contributing to conversation. A Heart to Mend was published in December 2009 and I am always amazed by the number of people who have read the book from all around the world.

On the flip side, self-publishing is expensive and requires a capital outlay to begin with rather than an advance you may receive from a traditional publisher. Even when my book came out, I had to invest further time and money in the publicity and marketing. If I had been published traditionally, I could’ve left all that to the agents and publishers and gone back to my next project. Not so with self-publishing, I had to put in a lot of effort and energy to get A Heart to Mend buzzing. A hurdle to be aware of is that a lot of media organizations still do not review, distribute or feature self-published books.

You can understand why I will always be grateful for the vehicle the internet provides to a writer and published author like me to get my book out there. Setting up an active blog and publishing my book has served a double purpose for me; finding out the target audience for my kind of writing and building a platform too. If not for the social networking channels, A Heart to Mend would never have gone viral the way it did. It was through the support of bloggers that I did my first blog tour for A Heart to Mend with the attendant publicity. By the end of that blog tour, I was getting requests for interviews and features almost daily. I put up chapter one of the book on a free reading website and it became a massive hit. It remained in the top 10 for three consecutive months!

The beauty of the internet was that I could remain in my work room with just my laptop and a connection, and meet up with these dozens of interviews. As time went on, I continued networking with other writers and self-published authors and I as I shared what I had learnt, I picked up some good nuggets from them too. I set up a twitter page and opened up my facebook profile for use with my pen name. As I became more adept at using the word-of-mouth tools on those two sites, the visibility of A Heart to Mend quadrupled. I learnt how to interconnect these media, how to set up scheduled tweets or how to update Facebook via RSS feeds, etc.

The challenge of using social networking is that of distraction. For me personally, Facebook has proved the most addictive. I find that sometimes while updating my pages, I may stray into something else entirely and so on, thereby wasting precious amounts of time that could have been put to better use. There was a day I took a break from writing and as usual, the first point of call was Facebook. The site was down, and I kept refreshing it for almost five minutes before it dawned what I was doing. I laughed at myself, left a message on Twitter about my addiction and went to check some other things. I had to really think that day but it is what it is. Apart from work, Facebook is also the only place I can keep in contact with all my family and most of my friends.

Finally, I think the reason social networking worked so well for me as a writer and publisher is because I am a social person. During the times I am not writing, I enjoy the company of other like-minded people and being able to use the internet and social networking to connect to more and more people in my writing life is a thing of learning and also of pleasure. At the end of the day, I have to find a way to balance the two by making sure that my internet use is mostly purposeful and in a way that is linked to my writing and also setting out a specific time for my writing itself without any distractions. That way, I still get a lot of writing done while remaining in the social circles.

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An edition of this article was published in the Saraba Magazine, Issue 7 - Technology 

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