Monday, August 26, 2019

Fate at Galaxy's Edge

While the shameless marketing of books based around the new Star Wars land at Disneyland is hilarious, it is also true that I and probably many others are totally into it. Black Spire Outpost is a beautiful land, a fantastic new Star Wars creation, so I absolutely don't mind getting to hear stories about the place.

Zoraida Cordova's Galaxy's Edge: A Crash of Fate is a YA read that tends toward the younger end of the genre. So it's simple, which is fine. Overall, it's a nice read. I enjoyed it. It was extremely sappy, which is going to be either a good or bad thing just depending on the reader. Love and loyalty and fate and friendship.

Sometimes the shameless marketing was a tad too shameless. Okay, go ahead and bring Dok Ondar and Oga in as characters. But the need to mention every food for sale in the new land and every shop available? They literally gave Zoraida Cordova a list of all the availabilities in Galaxy's Edge and required her to work them in to her novel. Some of it worked but some of it was too see-through. I'm totally into it, as I said, but you also have to laugh at it as you go along.

But it's a fun book, a book about childhood friendships, falling in love, and finding your identity. Classic YA thematic material. And yet here I am still relating to the whole finding identity thing, to the concept of looking back at who you were and looking at who you are and looking at how who you are looks back at who you were. How do our past selves affect our present selves?

My final note must be on the fantastic cover. Those black spires are already classic to me. And the style of it all reminds me of vintage covers of The Lord of the Rings. That otherworldly fantasy look. It's a shame this book didn't get more marketing (the book itself is marketing but the book didn't get much marketing of its own, funnily enough) simply so that this cover could be seen more.

Monday, August 19, 2019

What Is Fiction?

When you're in elementary school trying to remember which is fiction and which is non-fiction, they tell you to think of both fiction and fantasy starting with an "f." Fiction is fantasy and non-fiction is real (when you're in elementary school, that translates to the things you want to read and the things you don't want to read).

But the lines blur more than that, don't they? Obviously it's easy to categorize a book into either category (unless maybe some of the heavily fictionalized memoirs--those can dance right on the line between the two). What I mean is that the idea of fantasy being fiction implies stories like The Lord of the Rings or Treasure Island or The Phantom of the Opera. And yet the category of fiction also includes books that take place in the here and now (or the here and now in which they were written) with normal events that do happen to real people. Books that try and express the details and facts of real life, even if they are fictional stories.

Why? Why do that with a fictional story instead of a real, journalistic story?

Or why do we try not to write something real? Why do we choose fiction instead?

Because fiction is fantasy. It isn't mean to depict reality, only to express reality.

In expressing reality, sometimes fiction will show very real life characters in real life situations. Sometimes, though, there will be changes. Maybe something almost magical will happen to them at the end, something so great that it rarely happens outside of fiction. And changes like that also express reality because they express our wants and desires, our drives and values in life. The next step, of course, would be in the stories much unlike daily life--it is their themes, not the orcs and hobbits and elves, with which we can relate.

Fiction covers a wide range because it's an open door to expression.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Shattel: Kimbiri Peru 70%

Goodness, I didn't realize it had been over a year since I looked at that first bar from Shattell. Maybe it's just as well that they ended up spaced out: they're both fantastic bars of chocolate, each worthy of getting their own spotlight. This one has more of a flavor journey going on, though, a journey through different seasons, too.

I admit, I like this packaging less than with the other. Maybe simply because I prefer green to pink. The design still has the look of Peru, though, which is nice (reminder, Shattell is a Peruvian company). Both bars are made with chocolate grown in Peru, but this one is specifically from Kimbiri. I love that Shattell is showcasing their cocoa to the world. The chocolate's aroma here simply gives a deep chocolate scent. The layers don't really begin until you start tasting.

The start is dark and cloudy, like a storm is about to start brewing. The texture, like with the other bar, is almost dusty. Then everything smoothes out and the chocolate becomes a little sweeter. I begin to think that Shattell must use a less processed type of sugar than what American and European chocolate makers use; their sweetness tastes completely different and much nicer.

Some tang begins that's lightly floral. The flavor that I call silvery works in. Then some banana begins, nice and mellow. Here the weather changes and we're on a walk through a pretty little park on a sunny day. Picturesque and cute, like in a movie. The banana flavor strengthens. As the chocolate melts, it leaves a delightfully full and yet light aftertaste.

I love a good flavor journey. I used to always make comparisons between the flavor of chocolate and the weather (I love talking about the weather, by the way--it isn't small talk to me, it's intense talk). Then I stopped. Maybe I got stagnant creatively (or didn't want either to just keep repeating myself or to force it); maybe I stopped tasting as much inspiring chocolate. So its nice to start again.

I'm also all about the metaphors. This chocolate bar is hope. The sun breaks through the clouds.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Yellow Flowers

You know, I don't believe that life is all about happiness. Happiness is in its essence a shallow thing; there are other things that matter more. (Joy is separate from happiness, but that's a whole other conversation.) However, happiness does have its role in life.

Sometimes rediscovering yourself involves rediscovering happiness.

This morning I had a grand time at one of my volunteer places, then I went on an errand or two. And I picked up flowers for myself. I'd never done that before. You hear people talking about it and you know something? It's a powerful thing, to buy flowers for yourself.

If another person gives you flowers, it's because they value you. Maybe you achieved something (graduation or a performance or an award). Maybe it's your birthday and they're showing they appreciate your existence. Maybe they're your significant other saying they love you. So when you give yourself flowers, it's telling yourself that you value yourself.

I'm also not into the whole self-centered thing. Sure, be empowered, but don't just think about you. No, you are not the whole world. But the way to be a significant part of the place you live in is to first value yourself. Only then can you be there for others.

I bought myself flowers today. I chose yellow because I like yellow; yellow flowers are feminine without being girly. I chose Peruvian lilies because they look like wildflowers. These flowers look like warm weather and sunshine and smiles. In my living room, they bring life and . . . happiness.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Changing Time

Do you ever get curious what movies you watched as a child would be like if you saw them again as an adult?

The 2002 version of The Time Machine stayed in my memory in a way that I thought was overall vague but specific in certain points. When I watched it again, I found that I did remember just about the whole movie--it's just that it's kind of a succinct movie, so there isn't much to remember. I just thought that there must have been more.

I must have been around eleven when I saw it that first time around. It was a little more . . . suspenseful at eleven. Now, I was struck mostly by how much it is not the H.G. Wells story. I mean, that's one of those stories that isn't really a story but more of a socio-political commentary and discussion, so naturally any movie versions are going to veer sharply away. But this one is so far away that it's almost surprising it even has the same name; it's its own thing.

It's funny, I remembered pretty much the whole plot from the first time around, even down to specific scenes. But I'd forgotten the theme--if indeed I even got it back then. Funny how something so simply might not necessarily stand out when you're young.

So in this movie, this man builds the time machine so that he can go back and prevent his fiancee from dying. But she just dies in a different way. So he can change the way she dies but not the fact that she dies. He ends up in the future instead and at the end, he finds a way to change the future using his time machine in a non-traditional way. The theme, then, is that the past is over and you must move forward from it in what way you can--and it's the future that you have the power to influence. A simple theme, to be sure, and yet that makes it no less powerful.

What do you regret about the past? The past can't change, no matter how much we would like it to. The future, though, that's all open. If you want better, make the future better.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Ritual Chocolate: Peru Maranon 75%

Some chocolates I'm surprised that I have never had before. Ritual Chocolates looks familiar in some way and yet this appears to be my first encounter with them. Perhaps they just remind me of Original Beans. The color scheme of matte purple with silver accents and the style that straddles the line between classy and trendy very much puts in mind Original Beans from back when.

This is one of those card boxes that opens up in a unique way and showcases some info about the chocolate on the inside. Ritual Chocolates is based out of Utah, but the Nacional cocoa they've used for this bar comes from the Maranon River valley in Peru. Tearing open the sealed package inside releases a strong chocolate scent, what I want to call a very blended scent. The type of scent in which you can already imagine that the texture is going to be extremely smooth, like it's been conched for a long time. Mainly a sweet scent if you had to call it something, but with a hint of bitterness when you breathe in deeply.

On the tongue, a zing develops that is a flavor more than it is bitterness but is in actuality bitterness, set against a bed of sweet-edged chocolate. So it's a full taste experience, the tang with the sweet to form the chocolate flavor. The tasting notes are floral, herbal, toasted peanuts, and stone fruit. I considered calling the chocolate smoky but wasn't sure if that was quite right. And I'd wanted to say tangy but thought that it wasn't fruity or citrusy. So yeah, those notes sound about right.

The chocolate leaves an almost bitter aftertaste. That is, it isn't exactly bitter but neither is it that rich, red aftertaste that chocolate sometimes gives. This is loftier.

So there is plenty of flavor development going on here, plenty that they have coaxed out of the cocoa beans. Which is wonderful: it's been a while since I've had chocolate like this. Reminds me of how I keep posting about Star Wars books, so I was thrilled to read a Willa Cather book for a change (a change, no less, to more the type of thing I used to solely read). I've reviewed some good chocolate lately, but I've also been looking at plenty of mediocre or middle range quality level chocolate. So it's nice to get a reminder of the other type of chocolate, artisan chocolate.

Unfortunately, this chocolate was a gift from someone who'd been traveling out of state. That means I'm unlikely to come across more Ritual Chocolate anytime soon. If I ever do, though, I'll definitely want to try some more of their chocolate.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Agnes Pelton

A couple of years back, a visit to the Georgia O'Keefe Museum in Santa Fe left me refreshed and free, inspired by the concept of her artistic vision. Now when I go to the Phoenix Art Museum, I nod to any Georgia O'Keefe, saying, hey, I know you, and I also pause over the Agnes Pelton they have (it's usually next to the Georgia O'Keefe), thinking, hmm, that's a similar style, that abstract style that I can get into. I don't generally like the modern art much and abstract usually isn't my style, except when it's done in this certain way. Makes sense, too, I suppose, given that this was "modern" many decades ago, and so of course it would be quite a different style from what is modern today.

Now they have an Agnes Pelton exhibit going on at the Phoenix Art Museum--in fact, it's almost over, I've just been very bad and only just made it over to see it. Very bad considering that I was quite excited for it.

Again, this is abstract that I can get into. Such use of color and shape. Visuals become emotions. Aesthetics is not disregarded. Talent, too. Delicate shading here versus stark contrast between colors there. Content, as well, was something I favored. The desert makes a beautiful inspiration for art.

As some of the commentary mentioned, as well, there is an almost sci-fi quality to some of Pelton's work. It reminded me of some of Tolkien's art or of the illustrations that have been done for C.S. Lewis's The Space Trilogy. That very natural world and yet very other land look. So I could just keep staring at some of these paintings--they were inspiring and thought-provoking. Some, though, maybe took that edge a little too far for my interests. Pelton had an interest in thoughts and beliefs that would lead in to the New Age category and you can see it in her painting. A couple of her pieces in particular would fit right in at a couple of spots in Sedona. So it was interesting to observe that line: one one side of it I was enthralled and just right on the other I was removed.

It's funny the things that inspire us. I felt enriched from viewing Pelton's work--and yet it is only more recently that her work has been receiving wider recognition. There are many artists like that, aren't there? Sometimes the most famous artists are famous because they resonate on a personal level with so many people. But sometimes you won't overly connect with the work of a famous artist and instead you'll find a lesser known one who inspires you. That's why art is something you can continue to delve into your whole life long--there will always be new things to discover. 

Monday, August 5, 2019

A Glimpse of Edward Abbey

Edward Abbey, kind of like Willa Cather, is one of those authors I've been meaning to get to. There are always so many things to read that sometimes it just takes a while to get to authors you feel like you ought to have read years ago.

As I've been referencing lately the difficulty with having time to sit down and read a book, now seems a great time to bring up poetry. I still haven't read any Abbey books, but now I've read some of his poetry. Poetry is fantastic for the modern reader. Only have two minutes? Perfect; that's enough time for one poem. Have ten? A few poems, then. An hour or two? Hey, you just might make it through the whole volume. You're still getting quality content, just in a quicker-to-read format.

Now, as far as Abbey's poetry, Earth Apples was published posthumously. In his introduction, David Petersen discusses the fact that Abbey didn't consider them great works and didn't try to make them great works--and also that they don't need to be in order to have relevance. My own experience reading them is evidence of that: I haven't, as I've mentioned, read any of Abbey's books yet, but from reading these poems, I have a sense of what type of writer he was. The gist of his style and focus, as it were. I get the idea that I am going to be of two minds about his writing when I finally get to his books. Some of this I much enjoyed, some just didn't resonate with me, and some took the artistic approach that I prefer to leave unexplored.

From the writer's or research perspective, this book is quite fascinating. I don't write poetry, but I do sometimes free write in verse (that's why my latest book does contain some verse). I started doing that in middle school. Then I stopped because I saw that it wasn't poetry and it wasn't good and therefore I thought that it was bad. But I've started it up again more recently because sometimes that's just the way the words want to hit the page. There are many types of writing. And sometimes the writing that you need to do in order to make other, more planned, more perfected writing is simply a collection of thoughts in verse.

Have you ever read the Brontes' poetry? They become known as novelists. Read their poetry and you'll see why. They were not Keats. And yet they're not bad reads and there are some that are quite good and reading them gives this sense of who they each were as writers. You can see a person's style and focus based on how they put together verse.

So let's all read more poetry, shall we? I have a book of John Donne waiting for me and I am still wanting to pick up more Lang Leav one of these days.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Print Copies & Digitals Arrive

The reality of a writer's life: formatting your manuscript for the digital edition while making dinner, getting the email that the first step of the approval process for that edition is underway while on lunch at work, coming home from work to a package containing the new batch of printed copies of your latest book, blogging about your book while making dinner after work. Yeah, life goes on--you just have to fit the writing in between it all. The food, too, always fit in the food.

I got my proof copy of my latest book, Silence and Boldness, in the mail a couple weeks ago. But that was kind of just to make sure it looked alright; the big batch of them is where the excitement begins.

Even though I didn't really write this particular book to try and turn out profit (my plan is to mainly give it away) (not, of course, to imply that I wouldn't like to turn a profit, just that that isn't my goal with this one), it's still fun to set out several copies of a book with your name on it and just enjoy the moment. I give you a glimpse at my desk, too, for the fun of it.

For all you ebook readers out there, the digital edition is now available from Lulu. It will be on all the other major ebook sites later, but you can get it there right now (the digital is $2.99). And paperback and hardcover copies of both my books are still currently 30% off, if you're interested.