In my book, The Other Side of the Mirror, the main character is dealing with an autoimmune skin disease called Alopecia Areata. It causes hair loss on various parts of your body. “Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease, which means your immune system mistakes the normal cells in your body as foreign invaders and attacks these cells.” What causes alopecia areata. For my character Volana, she has hair loss on her scalp at the back of her head. Volana’s parents noticed these symptoms when she was in primary school. There were small patches of at the back of her head, but then the hair grew back after a couple months. Unfortunately, the symptoms came back after she graduated university. More hair falls out this time and most of the bottom half of her hair is gone. Her parents, thinking it’s genetic, tells her she is adopted. She has a challenging time dealing with this. As a Queen, all eyes are on her and she is afraid of being ridiculed and embarrassed over her hair loss. She starts wearing head scarfs which is normal in a lot of African countries so no one suspects much. Though, there are some people who are suspicious of her reasoning for wearing the scarves on and off.
Alopecia is not exactly inherited. There may be a parent with alopecia, but it doesn’t mean the child will too. In my story, Volana’s mother also has alopecia and I did that to make the story a little more interesting. Environmental factors also play a part in whether a person will develop it. There isn’t a cure for this disease, but people do try different medications and natural herbs to help with hair growth. Depending on a person’s level of alopecia, they may have total hair loss all over their body, or just in one place. It is possible for hair to grow back. Some people with total hair loss on their scalp wear wigs or scarves/bandannas. For Volana, the third time around, the hair on her scalp doesn’t grow back as quickly as before and she learns to accept herself even without most of her hair.
Next Wednesday’s topic is on Gangs and how they operate for my story, Deeper into Danger.
I’m sure everyone has heard of the movie Madagascar, but how many of you know the people and the rich culture that resides on the island? I started writing this story in high school for my creative writing class. I wanted to choose a country that I didn’t know and could learn more about, so I chose Madagascar. They call America a melting a pot, but Madagascar is a true cultural melting pot with people’s ancestors ranging from Africa, Southeast Asia, the Oceania, and the Middle East/Northern Africa. These backgrounds bring different elements together to create the Malagasy culture. It’s a place I plan on visiting one day.
My story is called the Other Side of the Mirror and it’s about a woman with Alopecia Areata- an autoimmune skin disease that causes hair loss- who found out she is adopted. Living in Tanzania with her adoptive parents, Volana sets out to Madagascar by herself to find her family and a cure for the disease. Her search becomes futile unfortunately, and she begins to lose hope. She expected to find her parents waiting for her, but that wasn’t the case. What she didn’t expect was to fall in love and become Queen of Fleur Fanjakana (Flower Kingdom) living in a grand castle, being tended to by maids and servants. It sounds great huh? Even with all the wonderful things she has now, Volana is still dealing with Alopecia, and her parents are still nowhere to be found.
Madagascar was a French colony that gained independence on June 26th, 1960. Their official languages are French and Malagasy. They have a thriving culture that is created from various backgrounds. The Malagasy ancestors came mostly from Africa and Asia. Their physical appearances vary with some regions with people who have more Asian features, African features, and/or Arab features. It’s very interesting how this mixture came about, with the different people groups settling on this island and living amongst each other. “Despite racial differences, Malagasy people share a common culture (practised with regional differences) and language.” Our Africa- Madagascar. They have more than a dozen ethnic groups on the island, yet they haven’t allowed their differences whether physical or cultural, stop them from creating a common culture for all to share. The Malagasy language is also very beautiful. It includes French, Bantu, and even Swahili words in it. Their words sound fancy and poetic. I want to use it in my story, but finding a credible translation might be difficult.
I never learned anything about Madagascar in school. Their history is something I would love to learn in school and it should be taught. Learning about a country with this type of history is important. I plan on incorporating their culture into my story and having a proper representation of the Malagasy people. That is the best part about being a writer. I don’t write just to create a story, but to also learn something new.
This Saturday the topic is on Alopecia Areata.
Happy Saturday! Ever wonder how or why countries split sides when it comes to war? Neither have I until now. In my book, Her War, there are countries bombing and fighting with each other. People aren’t sure what everyone is fighting about though. On the outside, it seems like haphazard crossfire with no purpose or direction, but that’s not true. On the inside, there is direction. A clear distinction between one side and the other, because there is something the others have that the other side wants. So, what makes a country an ally to another country? Do they sign an agreement paper stating that they have each other’s back?
There are several reasons why a country might ally with one country and not another. It could be because of their cultures or geography. Most of time countries that stick together have common interests and morals. Something that binds them to each other and the goals they have. For example, in World War one, the Axis alliance- or Central Powers- aligned with each other because in their respective areas, they had a chance to be the “superpower”. “The Axis partners had two common interests: 1) territorial expansion and foundation of empires based on military conquest and the overthrow of the post-World War I international order; and 2) the destruction or neutralization of Soviet Communism”. Holocaust Encyclopedia. It’s not about friendships or who likes who, but how can this country help me achieve what I want. Also, sometimes countries ally together because they might need them in the future! If a country helps another one with a war, in the future, that country will return the favor.
In my story, it’s not about politics, territory, or philosophy. It’s all about what one side has that the other wants. These countries are banding together, not because they like each other, but to safeguard something from the other side. I haven’t given them names yet. The countries I chose to be on the “good side” are all technologically advanced, and sort of spread out in the world. There’s a group in every continent, but that means their enemies also border them. That is the real challenge. How will they move their secret without the opposing side knowing and where do they hide it?
Next Wednesday the topic is about the culture in Madagascar.
It’s the second week of August, which means I am working on a different story. Being a Model is an intriguing novel, and I already miss writing for it. For this week it’s all about my story, Her War (I changed the title from The Future). This book is about a group of people determined to stop a ten-year global war. Every country and every culture is fighting, but what exactly are they fighting for? No one seems to understand how or why World War three started. They assumed nuclear weapons were the cause, but that was only a distraction for what was going on between the governments. Dominic and Sienna team up with the President’s daughter looking for a man who lived in Dominic’s home before him. Unfortunately, their search is interrupted when they get kidnapped. In captivity, they find a group confused as they are about the war breaking apart countries and families. Soon, a truth no one saw coming hits them at full force.
I ended up changing the topic for today to surviving an apocalypse. The book isn’t about an apocalypse, but some of the information on how to survive one may be helpful. My characters are living in the time of war and there isn’t much left to the world. Cities and towns are ruined, food is scarce, and people are dying. How do they survive? What are some things to help them adjust to this live? These are questions I will answer.
The first thing you need is food. This is a no-brainer. You may or may not have non-perishable food at home so scavenging for food is important. By scavenging, I mean going through abandoned homes or stores and taking any food left. If you live in a place with a lot of animals, you can go hunting. Even if you don’t live near moose or deer, a raccoon should suffice. If eating animals isn’t your thing, try growing a garden or gathering vegetables and fruit from a garden, if they aren’t ruined. Also, lots and lots of water. Medicine is also important if there are sick people in a group or if someone gets injured. Anything from bandages to antibiotics is very useful. Clothes are a big one too, depending on what climate you live in. In colder areas, it’s best to stack up on jackets, long-sleeves, and boots. In warmer climates, you may want to cover up too so you don't expose too much skin in the sun.
Now on to shelter and defense. Finding a secure place to live is the most important thing. For my characters in the beginning, they are staying in the basement of Dominic’s home. The top part of his house caved in with debris everywhere. His basement is a pretty safe and secure place to live, but they may move again. Once you’ve depleted the resources in a specific place, it’s better to leave and find another home. In Dominic’s area, they do give out food every week, so a place like that, you don't need to go anywhere unless they run out of food. Having a supply of knives, guns, or even tools is helpful. You can use it to hunt or defend your group in anyone tries to rob you. Learning some defense moves wouldn’t hurt either… well for your opponent it will. The point it, you must be ready for anything, even the “impossible”.
Last, but not least, configuring a productive team. By “team” I mean your family, friends, or people you meet. There are three things that would create a productive team: set up a system, give everyone a purpose, have a consensus for every decision. Everyone handles something. Whether it’s checking the inventory, hunting, or building. Whatever it is, giving people, a purpose helps to drive the team. When there is a system set in place, things get done in an orderly fashion. Less mistakes and more productivity.
Something I forgot to mention is entertainment. With all the seriousness, there should be some fun. A time for people to forget about the troubles they are in. Music and games are fantastic ways to relax. You can tell stories by the fire or create a makeshift band.
If you have all these things, you have a better chance of survival. I watched a lot of gameplays for the Walking Dead, and even though I don’t believe zombies are real, there are real life lessons in the game. It looks like a pretty accurate portrayal of what could happen if the world were to fall to zombies.
This Saturday, the topic is about relationships between countries in war.
Today, I’m going to explain misconceptions about the modeling industry that I have heard or had myself. Some people may argue that the models did this to themselves or they chose that line of work, but it doesn’t excuse the poor treatment they receive. Yes, there are many models who live the great life and get paid in millions, but the reality is, the majority are not living it up. I could make my character’s life super easy, but my job isn’t to appeal to the accepted image, but to show people what is behind the veil. My readers will get a glimpse of a model’s real life. Something that reflects the hidden reality of modeling. This isn’t to bash the industry, but to shed light on how it is. Nothing is simple and we shouldn’t assume any job is “easy”. Every job has its difficulties, its costs and benefits. It may not compare to other occupations, and that’s okay. The world isn’t black and white. In fact, there are so many gray areas, it resembles a dark storm cloud more than anything else.
Many models take on second jobs because they cannot live on that income either because it is not enough to pay their bills or because of the inconsistency. A model can work on a runway show for example, and not get paid for months. Sometimes they will receive clothes as a trade instead of payment. This may not happen to ALL models though. Of course, for more famous models (which there are few) they probably get their money. Some end up taking retail or fast food jobs. Some people with a loyal following on social media, may receive sponsorships from different companies to promote their products. It’s very difficult to live only on the model salary for a lot of people, especially if you are just starting out and do not get any financial support from anyone. Some people move to different countries, states, and cities. They start all over from scratch. Even if you saved money beforehand, it may not last long.
I never realized how much more complex everything was. There are models who live in expensive cities and cannot afford the rent. They spend countless hours working every week, but that effort is not reciprocated on their paychecks. “Models typically aren't treated as employees, so they usually aren't guaranteed to receive minimum wage… instead, they are often considered independent contractors. And this means that even after paying their agencies fat commissions of 20% or more, models often have to foot the bill for business expenses.” Blake Ellis and Melanie Hicken, The Outrageous Cost of Being a Model. For example, a model expects a fifteen-thousand-dollar check for the work done, but instead receives a three-thousand-dollar check. Even after the twenty percent cut, the government takes taxes out of that. They are not left with much to pay rent, buy groceries, or pay for transportation. This would infuriate anyone. It’s a very lackadaisical industry. There aren’t many laws or enforced laws to protect the models and ensure better treatment.
I’d like to thank Brandon Llovet (a real model) for clarifying and answering questions I had. Follow him on Instagram @brandonllovet and @BBLovet.
Next week’s topics are mixing genes and artificial wombs for my book The Future. The title is a work in progress, don’t judge.
*All my photos are from https://freephotos.cc/ except the one from Wednesday.
Happy August everyone! I am writing a story about a woman navigating her way through the modeling industry. Mai Jenkins just moved to New York City from small town Venolia, Texas, and is ready to hit the runway. She doesn’t anticipate running into complications on the way, making her adjustment a lot more difficult than she thought. Mai expects lavish clothing, limos, thousands of dollars in her bank account, and her face on a billboard. Instead, what she receives is a dinghy apartment with four other girls and barely enough jobs to pay her expensive rent. In other words, a pretty crappy lifestyle. There is a lot of research going into this because I don’t know anything about modeling. That’s the beauty of being a writer, you get to create a fascinating story while also learning something new. Now I can share it with everyone. There are many things I learned that shocked me as well. I think we all have a very manipulated view about models. In this blog, I am specifically referring to signed fashion models. The world of modeling is a complex place with no guarantees and a lot of uncertainty. It’s like you are constantly free-falling through the air, momentarily catching a cloud to rest on until you drop right through. Despite this, the glamour continues to bring young women into the industry. It’s not easy at all, and this is coming from someone who has no experience in that life. I couldn’t walk even a few feet in their heels. What I discovered was more than a bunch of pretty girls walking down a runway. I read about women who just like everyone else, worked hard to make their dreams come true. It’s not as simple as standing in front of a camera. Every struggle is a struggle.
Models spend a lot of their days going to casting calls and doing photo shoots. Some models are lucky enough to fly to different cities and countries for photo shoots or runways. These casting calls are not paid and can last for several hours. A model will walk for the judges and give them their portfolios which consist of head shots and other photos they have. The judges are usually composed of the fashion designer, a make-up artist, and the photographer. If the judges choose them for a show, they move on to the fitting. This can go up to twelve hours and they still do not pay them. However, even if a model moves on to the fitting, she still may not be chosen for the show. This may contribute to the reason why they are not compensated for that time. During a fitting, the models try on the garments and practice walking in them for the designer to inspect. Fun fact, the models must find their own way to fittings, something Mai did not know (neither did I). I thought whoever managed the fittings and show picked up their models, but no. Some people take buses or walk. It's not that far-fetched to find your own transportation to work. Anyway, once a model passes through the fitting phase, they begin rehearsals for the show.
It was fun watching casting videos and photo shoots for this. I really admire the art of it. The background, the outfits, and mostly, the model’s confidence pouring through the camera lenses. That is something. Their expressions are captured in time, whether they’re in mid-laugh, or glaring at the camera. Every part comes together to make a scene and create a story. It seemed weird at first when I scrolled through pictures. The way the models positioned themselves was awkward to me. After a while, I began to see the beauty of it.