Monday, February 19, 2018

A Junk Drawer of Happy Stuff

A RANDOM ASSORTMENT OF GOOD AND CHEERFUL THINGS THAT HAVE HAPPENED THIS WEEK/WILL HAPPEN SOON

1. Before you ask, no, I have not yet seen Black Panther. But I will see it this week! Can't wait!

2. My book launched this week! Here's picture of Arts and Thefts snuggled up to its big brother Under Locker and Key at the Orem Barnes & Noble:


3. I will be launching Arts and Thefts at The King's English Bookstore in Salt Lake City on March 2 at 7 pm. Here's a link to the event.

If you come, I'll sign a book for you!

4. This past week I discovered this book:


Yes. It is The Phantom of the Opera starring the Muppets.

I have read The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux many a time. I can tell you, this Muppet version is scene for scene, character for character, the same book. There are full passages that are identical or very similar to the passages from the original novel. But Kermit is Raoul de Chagny, and Miss Piggy is Christine Daae.

I died. I was laughing so hard. If you like the Muppets and also have read/appreciate The Phantom of the Opera, I think you'd enjoy this.

5. Taste Chocolate in Provo. It snowed today, so I went with some of my siblings since we've been on a quest for good hot chocolate since the Cocoa Bean (may it rest in peace) no longer exists here. So, is the cocoa good?

Holy cow, it is amazing!

Maybe some of the best cocoa I've ever had. It was $5 for a large mug, but it's made with real chocolate and has a great flavor. The whipped cream is excellent, too. We got a mug of the cocoa and a cup of the sipping chocolate (the same thing, only richer and thicker) and passed them around.

The location is also super classy, with real flower centerpieces and old-fashioned/French music playing.

I wanted to add pictures, but I don't want to infringe on copyright, so I can't. But you should follow the link or look it up yourself if you want to see.

Yes, we are planning to go back. It feels like a vacation to New York City or Paris.

6. "LOU" by Pixar. Seen it?


You have now.

Okay, actually, this isn't the whole thing. It has been cut, but it's the short they had before Cars 3. I think this shows enough to show how cute it is.

This has been my highlights this week. I hope your week has been excellent!

Monday, February 12, 2018

A Lawless Art Show

OH MAN, GUYS!

ARTS AND THEFTS HITS STORES TOMORROW!


I'm just a little excited. Just a little.

But I have a right to be! My book is coming out! The book launch will be March 2, 7 pm, at The King's English bookstore. It's a great venue; I love that charming bookstore. See you there!

Okay, so last year when Under Locker and Key hit stores, I built up to it with interviews with my characters. I wanted to do something a little different with this new book.

So, Arts and Thefts takes place over the summer at Scottsville's community art contest. Jeremy and Becca have to team up once more to stop an art saboteur from ruining kids' chances of winning the contest. It's personal for Jeremy because his forger friend Case is one of the contestants.

Since the book is about art sabotage, and Case is a forger, I thought it might be fun to give you all a little exhibition of some famous art forgers/forgery and vandalism. Because crime is fun. Or, at least, reading about it is.

FORGERY:

Elmyr de Hory:






I think I've mentioned this guy before. He's a famous art forger, mostly for being the subject of Orson Welles's (fake, believe it or not) documentary called F for Fake. He has over 1,000 pieces of fake art to his name, starting with a fake Picasso.

Wolfgang Beltracci:




Another ridiculously prolific forger. He and his wife forged and sold tons of fake art, including forgeries of Max Ernst and Heinrich Campendonk. He has made more than $100M from selling forgeries. He was caught and sentenced to 6 years in prison, but only served 3 before being released.


Han van Meegeren's Jesus Among the Doctors:


This piece is cool. Van Meegeren had to paint it in front of court-appointed witnesses to prove that he was a forger. He was accused of collaborating with Nazis and "plunder[ing] Dutch cultural property" because he sold a Vermeer painting to Reichsmarschall Hermann Goring. Guess what? It was fake, so he wasn't a traitor. Just a forger. In 1947, a Dutch poll found him the second-most popular man in the country, just behind the Prime Minister.

Michelangelo's Sleeping Eros:






Yes, Michelangelo was also a forger. The picture above is actually a real statue similar to one that 21-year-old Michelangelo made out of marble. By the time anyone realized it was fake, Michelangelo had become famous for his Pieta. The forgery was likely destroyed in a fire in 1698.

VANDALISM:

The Mona Lisa:


Mona Lisa, one of the most famous paintings in the world, has been the victim of repeated vandalism. In 1956, a vandal threw acid at it in the Louvre, and then later that year, someone else threw a rock and chipped some paint off her elbow. It has since been restored.

The Little Mermaid:


This statue, based on the character in Hans Christian Andersen's story The Little Mermaid, has been vandalized so often that Copenhagen officials had it moved out further in the harbor to prevent more vandalism. The primary type of vandalism for The Little Mermaid is decapitation; in 1964, the head was sawed off and stolen, never to be recovered. Another head was made instead. It has also been blown up, cut apart, and had paint dumped all over it. I have no idea why this statue gets so much damaging attention -- while I had to find a joke picture for Mona Lisa, this one's vandalized shots were very easy to find.

Diego Velazquez's Rokeby Venus





In 1914, Mary Richardson, a suffragette, attacked the Rokeby Venus with a meat cleaver. The act was in response to the very recent arrest of fellow suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst. Richardson said, "I have tried to destroy the picture of the most beautiful woman in mythological history as a protest against the Government for destroying Mrs. Pankhurst, who is the most beautiful character in modern history." She got 6 months of prison time for destroying art.

Cy Twombly's Phaedrus:


Not all vandalism is paint and knives; in 2007, artist Rindy Sam kissed the Phaedrus, an all-white canvas, leaving a red lipstick smear. Attempts to remove the mark, using 30 different chemicals, failed. Sam was arrested and convicted of "voluntary degradation of a work of art." She was ordered to pay 1000 euros to the owner, 500 euros to the gallery, and 1 euro to the painter. Her defense for her act was this: "It was just a kiss, a loving gesture. I kissed it without thinking; I thought the artist would understand... It was an artistic act provoked by the power of Art."


I'm going to call it good here, though there are lots of stories, very interesting ones, about art forgery and sabotage. I hope you enjoyed the read; look up these stories on your own if you'd like to know more. And don't vandalize or forge art. Both are crimes.

Also, if you'd like to read a fun piece of fiction about art sabotage with a forger character, might I suggest Arts and Thefts? Because it comes out tomorrow!

Couldn't resist. Have a great week! I think I will.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Memories

Hey!

First, some news: Arts and Thefts hits stores next Tuesday, February 13. This is the day before Valentine's Day, as well as Mardi Gras. I don't know what to do with this information.

Second, in conjunction with said book release, my launch for Arts and Thefts will be held March 2 at 7 pm at The King's English Bookstore in Salt Lake City.


It will be fun, I hope. I'll do a short presentation including a reading and a Q&A, so hope to see you there!

Anyway, now that I've mentioned that, I want to write a blog post that I've been thinking about for the last week. It's serious and personal, and I debated about whether to write it, and I came down on the decision that it's important for me to do this.

About two weeks ago, my grandmother Mary Alice Yardley Hymas passed away. Here's a picture of her from the program:


Lovely, right?

Anyway, I felt like it was important for me to share some of my memories about my grandmother. I write on this blog about so many things that are important to me, and my family is one of the most important things in my life. So, here goes:

- She would preserve raspberries in jars, and would let us kids eat mounds of them out of bowls with spoons. I think this contributed to my life-long love of raspberries.
- I remember molded soaps at her house. I don't have any special connection with them, other than they were the first place I saw soaps shaped like other things and now molded soaps remind me of her.
- She had about a hundred Kewpie dolls, which were simultaneously interesting and creepy to me.
- Going to Grandma and Grandpa's house meant games. I have a memory of playing Mousetrap (which I loved for the Rube Goldberg machine element) at their house.
- Grandma telling me the story of my ancestor Rebecca Nurse, who was hanged as a witch in Salem. I remember her telling the story and making it very clear that the reason Rebecca was targeted was because she was smart and capable and good. Grandma's voice was firm on that.
- Grandma supplied a lot of the movies I grew up on, like Alice in Wonderland, and Cinderella. They were taped and sent over in the mail on VHS tapes. It's still comforting to think of those tapes.
- Every time I visited, she'd ask me about my dating life. I know that's common with grandparents, but I enjoyed how invested she seemed. It was kind of encouraging.
- A more recent memory was after Under Locker and Key was published. I went down to visit my grandparents and they had me sign a bunch of copies to give to friends. As I signed, I noticed that Grandma had stuck a printed copy of the (positive) review of my book in each one. She didn't say anything about it, but I smiled knowing that she was giving her friends the review as well as the book.


Love you, Grandma, and I miss you. Thank you for everything you did for me.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Crunchy, Creamy, Perfect

Guys...

Arts and Thefts comes out in two weeks and one day!


HOORAY!

Wow, it's really coming up fast. I'm going to have a book launch on March 2, 7 pm, at The King's English bookstore in Salt Lake City, so I hope to see you there! It's going to be great, and I'm sure I'll have more information as the date gets closer.

As for today's post, well, I'm pretty much torn. Half of me wants to write something deep, meaningful...something that would be interesting to read.

But I'm also a week into training for marathon, and the run-ger appeared quickly and without mercy, so the other half of me wants to write an ode to peanut butter.

Which I got a whole new, full jar of today. HOORAY PT. 2!

I figure I can't have it both ways, so an ode to peanut butter it is.

Let's be honest: peanut butter is one overlooked food item. Banned from some locations due to allergies (although from what I've learned, that may soon be a thing of the past due to allergy-free GMO peanuts), it's still a staple in kids' lunches all over the country.



And for runners it's a freaking godsend. Peanut butter is a filling snack high in protein that I don't need to feel guilty for indulging in. It's the perfect recovery food, going well with chocolate to create a delicious recovery treat.

I know that peanut butter isn't much cared for in other countries, and having tried English peanut butter, I can see why.

I also know that peanut butter isn't as flashy or fashionable as sports gels, protein shakes, or nutrition bars. It's the kid's sandwich treat, after all. Everyone has a jar or knows someone who does. You don't have to go far to get a supply. We pair it with jam, bananas, marshmallow creme, or Nutella to dress it up on our bread.

But it still remains delicious and nutritious, supporting us whether we're running a marathon or just running late for work. Our humble jar of peanut butter.

I think that's admirable. Moving away from praising a food, I think the ability to do one's job well without seeking praise for it, just because the work is worthy, is admirable. It's why I love the character Sam Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings, as well as Frodo and pretty much every other character in that book. It's why I'm driven to admire characters who are good, honest people, and it's why I think Hidden Figures was such a powerful movie even beyond the discussions about race and gender it raised.

Good people, humble people, who are always there, supporting others. Whether they themselves are the hero in the story, or just the hero of their own story, they are powerful, likeable characters who can share so many important lessons with a reader without needing to be preachy.

Well, huh. I guess I could have it both ways, after all.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Eat Your Vegetables

Yesterday, I introduced my roommate to the Leroy Jenkins viral video.

So now you get to enjoy it again, too.


You're welcome.

This blog post is brought to you by the recent realization I had that avocado truffles are a thing:


Yep, those are made with avocados. You can find the recipe here at 80 Twenty Nutrition.

At first, my response was, "Well, that sounds healthy, but what?" My second response was, "Actually, avocado is used a lot as a butter substitute in vegan cooking, so to use it as a cream substitute in a truffle makes a lot of sense." My third thought was, "Yay! Now I can bring vegan truffles to my writing group!"

I'm not vegan; a member of my group is. I just like cooking, baking, and messing with recipes. Plus, (here it comes) I started training for the marathon today, so I'm hungry for recipes that taste good but give me the wellness I need to run this stinkin' long race.

But I haven't gotten to my fourth thought yet. It was this: "What other vegetable-based desserts (other than carrot cake and other obvious ones) are out there?"

So, here's a list of the weirdest veggie-based desserts I have found. I haven't tried them (yet), but I'm not here to comment on how tasty they are, just on how baffled I am that someone came up with the idea to try this in the first place.

Gotta start with Black Bean Brownies:


Okay, I already lied. I have made these. They start the list because black beans always reminded me of Mexican food, not chocolatey goodness. But the result was dense and tasty, if a little "veggie" in the aftertaste. High in fiber, too.

Speaking of Mexican food...

Jalapeno Chocolate Chip Cookies.


WHY DOES THIS EXIST???

And here's another vegan option:


Strawberry Cheesecake. With a cauliflower/cashew blend instead of cheese.

And tons and tons of things to do with beets, corn, and our good friend avocado. Not to mention zucchini.

But I had to take it further. Now, what vegetables are objectively labeled "the worst"? The ones no kid will eat? Broccoli, spinach, and Brussels sprouts, right? So, can I find dessert recipes using them?

Yep.

Broccoli Brownies.

Baked Lemon Spinach Doughnuts.

(Although, in fairness, spinach seems about as popular as zucchini in desserts, so there's a lot out there.)

And...I found nothing for Brussels sprouts. It seems there are limits to what you can combine with sugar.

For now. Who knows? Maybe my next experiment will be somehow putting Brussels sprouts in brownies. They're not that different from broccoli, right?

Maybe after I figure out how to put garlic in a cookie someone would actually want to eat. And find someone willing to test it.

Any takers?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Jumanji, LPs, and the Video Game Movie


I'm starting to get the feeling that Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's Hollywood career revolves around finding shiny green rocks and, ahem, "putting that thing back where it came from or so help me."


But seriously, guys, we need to talk about Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.

I delayed this blog post by one day so I could go see this movie on Discount Tuesday and talk about it now. I've been playing around with an idea for a while, and I had a feeling that the latest reboot of Jumanji was going to factor into it.

I was right.

So let's talk video games and movies.

I'm going to preface this by saying that practically I'm not much of a gamer. I don't have a console, so I don't really get to play the games. I enjoy video games, and I used to play a little on my brother's consoles. But nowadays I watch Let's Plays on YouTube because I like the stories of some video games and it's nostalgic for me to watch someone else play.

I recently finished watching an LP of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword by Chuggaconroy. It was really good; I watch these for the stories and the commentary, and I came away with an appreciation for the player and a love for the story. This game actually has a really great story and excellent character interactions and development. I was very drawn into the game, even though I wasn't the one playing.

What does this have to do with Jumanji, you might be asking? Hold on, I'm getting there. First, though, I want to talk about movies based on video games.






And why they do so terribly.


Seriously, why? Video games have some great stories, and if TV shows and books can be adapted into movies, why do games struggle so much? I've heard a number of theories, from bad movie-making, directors/writers who don't know the game well enough to understand what makes it popular (this is true of any kind of adaptation, to be honest), to the fact that video games put the player in control and movies take away that control.

I agree most with the last reason. I think video games have something special in that they are inherently interactive and a movie is not. However, that doesn't explain why I enjoy watching Let's Plays, and why others enjoy them, too. I am not interacting with the game when I watch an LP, but I still have a lot of fun. So, why does this work and not a movie based on a game?

I think it's because the interaction is still there in how the player comments and reacts to the game. I'm not reacting, but the fun, real reactions to the game are still there.

And that's what I think Jumanji did right. I don't think it was the best movie ever, but as a movie structured around the idea of a video game, it made some interesting moves. While this film is not based on a game, it is a movie about a video game. It manages to blend the epic adventure of a video game plot with the realistic gamer reactions someone might have when playing. It toys with meta-playing, like knowing that you can waste a life in order to achieve an objective. It also uses the idea of becoming someone else (who is very much not you) when playing a game.


It captures the feel not only of the game but also the act of playing one. Granted, it's not based on a game itself, but I still think that's why this movie is being praised when movies based on video games get panned.

Video games are more than their story, but movies limit themselves to the story alone. Maybe they have to: it's a medium thing. But the act of playing the game is a part of the story, too. The Zelda games are epic fantasy adventures, but they're also gamers messing around cutting grass and fighting chickens and screaming and running like crazy when the boss battle arrives and they have NO IDEA what to do next.


They're fun and playful because the players are. Movies can't capture that; they have to pick a genre and they can't leave it up the players. LPs capture both the game and the way people play it.

I don't know if a movie based on a video game can really capture the feeling of being a normal person playing the game and reacting to it like we do. And, for some games (horror games come to mind), maybe we wouldn't want that. But I think there's value in exploring what Jumanji did right in making a movie about a game by addressing the feeling and responses of the players. If a studio wants to make a successful movie based on a video game, they need to look beyond the story itself and into the experience the players have while playing it, serious and silly. Only then would a movie based on a game feel "right" to the players who have experienced it.

I also think it wouldn't hurt to attempt it with a longer medium first, like a TV series.

Oh, and guess what? I registered for the Utah Valley Marathon. I'm excited but a bit nervous. Good thing I have time to train. So, that happened.

It was also brought to my attention that my "About Me" section on my blog needed to be updated, so I did that, too. We'll be back to our normal Monday schedule next week.

Monday, January 8, 2018

New Year, New...We'll See

Happy 2018, everyone!

First thing first, today is the last day to enter the Arts and Thefts giveaway on Goodreads. If you're interested in winning a copy, you'd best act now!


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Arts and Thefts by Allison K. Hymas

Arts and Thefts

by Allison K. Hymas

Giveaway ends January 08, 2018.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Speaking of Arts and Thefts, the publication date is coming up really fast! Five weeks from tomorrow! It snuck up on me, I admit. I'm trying to figure out book launch plans, though I realize that the launch may be a bit late, or might not happen, because of my dilly-dallying. I hope it happens; I have some good ideas to make it fun!

My vacation was a good one. It was very, very cold, though; toward the end, Pennsylvania got hit with a bomb cyclone, which looks a bit like this:





A hurricane of snow and winds and bitter cold. To put it perspective, it's now around 40-45 degrees F outside in Utah, and I've been walking around in a thin long-sleeve shirt because it feels warm and springtimey to me right now. It makes a nice change.

Overall it was a good break. I saw a few movies (The Last Jedi and The Greatest Showman - the latter was really worth watching although it hasn't gotten the Star Wars hype) and got to spend some quality time with my family, which is always the best part. I also got some time to rest my mind, which lasted a few days before the ideas started jumping for a new project.

Yes, I know I have a lot of new projects. The really funny thing is that they're all middle grade. I used to have a grand total of zero middle grade ideas, and then I had one, and now I can't stop them from coming! I'm pretty excited about this one, and I've already started writing it over the break because I needed to start getting it down.


So, a new work in progress or two might be something I work on this year. Another thing is a marathon.

Strange as it sounds, I do want to run 26.2 miles for kicks and giggles. I've wanted to for a few years, and I think I might be able to make it happen this year. I just looked up a schedule, and boy, this is going to be interesting. But it gives me a good timeline for training. I now need to look up races nearby that will make a good first marathon that work with that timeline. Utah has some great marathons, but I'm a beginner, so I want one that's chill and easy. Okay, easier. It's not like I'm qualifying for Boston.

So...we'll see how this year goes. I'll be busy writing, reading, and running. And probably watching my sugar intake (sob) as I fuel correctly for the marathon.

I'll keep you posted on any adventures this year brings, and I hope you do the same for me!