The Year of Finishing Things

Ah, 2017. I’m excited to be in you.

Last year was long and eventful and a lot of stuff happened. For me, a lot of last year’s events were good! I got a job as a flight attendant, moved to a new state, made new friends, did a ton of traveling, and worked my tail off. I was very goal oriented and had a lot of personal growth and very little backsliding on things like eating a whole pizza in one sitting. One could call it a success.

I’m especially proud of how determined I was to write more in 2016. I worked a lot on the urban fantasy book I started in 2013. I attempted NaNoWriMo and actually did pretty okay for the first half of the month, given how much I was flying. November is always the busiest month. I wrote about 15,000 words, which is kind of a lot. And I’m not done. (btw, if you’re one of my super excellent beta readers I’ll start posting the newer bits soon!)

I also wrote poems and blogs and started a memoir/collection of stories about the funny experiences I had dating in LA while I was living there. I’ve only done about 7 tales/chapters but I made myself laugh and that’s the ultimate goal, non?

I also failed at a lot of things in 2016, but I’m not too torn up about it. I need adversity to really thrive, because let’s face it, I’m lazy as hell. Adversity gets me out of bed in the morning.

So, cheers to The Year of Finishing Things! Whether it’s the book I swore I’d complete in 2016, my Goodreads Reading Challenge (150 books was extremely ambitious, 100 is much more my speed for this year), projects I promised to undertake and didn’t, my laundry, and a good K.O. in Mortal Kombat, my only resolution for 2017 is to finish things.

Also: I’m not a quote person but I’m getting more and more basic so this quote by Brad Paisley. I keep thinking if I can just write a little bit every day I’ll have a Harry Potter length book by next year. Let me have this dream :p

Sci-fi vs. Reality and Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies Series

Uglies (Uglies, #1)I don’t think I’m the only person who gets books stuck in their head like songs. I’ve had Scott Westerfeld’s YA series stuck in my brain for years, and I think a big part of that is because it is so prescient about modern society and the direction human nature is taking us.

The series is set in a future North America where at a certain age privileged teenagers undergo cosmetic surgery to erase all of their flaws. The books go more into the philosophical and ethical consequences of this, from the personal level to that of government, but I think even at the surface level it’s an interesting question to ask yourself. If you could become “perfect,” would you?

In Uglies, Tally Youngblood, the protagonist, spends her free time thinking about what her future face will look like, comparing the symmetry of either half of her face. When I read the books years ago I thought about it myself, but today as I was scrolling through a makeup group I follow on Facebook, a user had posted a set of photos of herself, one unedited, one retouched, side by side, and I was inspired to try it.

I picked a photo (left) from a day I thought my makeup looked really good.

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Surprisingly, the right side of my face when doubled looks more like the original photo. I am right handed, so the features on the right side of my body are all slightly larger. I prefer the photo on the right, which is my left side doubled. You can tell because I have a freckle under the pupil on my left eye. My face is narrower and my forehead is smoother, but despite this I wouldn’t ever voluntarily have a symmetry surgery done, like in the books.

I made my face symmetrical using a free app called Square Instapic. It’s available on both Android and IOS img_3351platforms. I mostly use it for fitting an entire rectangular photo in a square for Instagram, but it makes nice collages too.

With so much emphasis on cosmetically and surgically changing the way we look these days, it’s no wonder Uglies  popped into my head. I’ve seen so much lip lining and contouring and general makeup brujeria recently. Not to mention actual surgery, and photo retouching; the premise of Westerfeld’s book isn’t far off.

I don’t see anything wrong with changing the way you look to feel like your most authentic self, but I think the underlying warning of both the book and my own opinion is that the single-minded focus on image can make humans blind to other, very important things.

Extras (Uglies, #4)However, in a society that is becoming much more like the last book in the series, Extras, image is everything, including livelihood, for a growing number of people. In Extras,  Aya lives in the same world as Tally, but in a different culture, where everything is filmed and broadcast, and social status and resources are allotted by popularity. Sound familiar?

Thousands of people have gained notoriety, sponsor-ships, and sometimes even fame and fortune from popular photos on social media, or viral videos. Some people come to it by chance, and some work very hard and almost single-minded-ly toward these goals. There are tons of marketing and traffic growth experts who have spent years developing know-how and web techniques to create viral content. Marketing is a cornerstone in the American economy and I can imagine it will only grow bigger and more essential as society and technology grow together. It’s exciting and a bit scary to think about, no?

Thanks for reading!

And, just in case you’re wondering, yes, Scott Westerfeld does have an Instagram.

Waiting, Mental Health and Writing

Grave Visions (Alex Craft, #4)Grave Visions, the fourth and latest installment of the Alex Craft books came out today. I was fanatical about this series when I read them initially in 2012, which is when the third book came out.

I’ve waited four excited years for this day. Every time the publication date was pushed back I felt a bit of confusion and disappointment, but not much. The reason? Kalayna Price is an author. A really really good one. Her Haven series is also really great. That aside, she’s a human.

The only hint of explanation (which I was not owed, nor was any other reader) was a blog post from February of 2013, in which she told us that in order to maintain her health and wellbeing she needed to withdraw from touring and appearances and heal.

This resonated with me because I write and deal with health issues. Writing is extremely mentally demanding. The brain is a powerful thing, and the body is affected. In my experience dealing with mental health issues, the physical toll can be harsh. If your physical state is under stress, you can pretty much kiss goodbye any ease in using your mental faculties.
Kalayna Price is doing the dang thing and I’m incredibly inspired by it, whatever her troubles may be. Four years sounds like eons to an anxious reader, but to someone who has spent the last four years getting it together (me) it means work and recovering and more work. Brava, Kalayna. I can’t wait to read your book.