Sunday, March 30, 2014

Snippet Sunday: Who's The Boss?

This week's snippet is from Something Old, one of my series romances, published by Silhouette Romances under my "Toni Collins" pseudonym (it'll be available in ebook format later this year). It's a romantic comedy about a vampire who owns a tabloid and his star writer, a woman descended from a long line of vampire hunters....

"Nobody seems to know anything about him."

"Maybe he doesn't exist."

Joining the group of women who obviously had nothing better to do than gather around the water cooler to exchange gossip, Gabriella Thorne--"Gabby" to her friends and colleagues--knew without asking that they were talking about their boss, the new owner and publisher of the International Intruder, the most successful of the supermarket tabloids. He'd been the favorite topic of water cooler conversation since he took over six months earlier, probably because virtually nothing was known about the man.

"Maybe he's another Howard Hughes," Gabby suggested, joining the conversation as she filled a paper cup for herself.

"May I remind you, Gabby, that even Howard Hughes was spotted from time to time. Elvis has been sighted more often than Adrian Lacross." This was from Rosemary Patterson, executive assistant to managing editor Erik Thoreau.

"And Elvis is dead," chimed in Karyn Peck, a fellow staff writer.

"Not according to our paper, he isn't,"  Gabby pointed out with mild amusement.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Best Laid Plans Can and Usually Do Go Awry....

Given the choice, 99% of the time I'll opt to wait for a movie to come out on DVD or streaming to see it. If we do go to the theater, it will be for an early matinee a week or two after the movie's been released--I hate crowds. I've only attended evening showings twice in the past twenty years--once, for an advance screening for which Collin and I had been given free tickets, and more recently, for the Marvel Movie Marathon in 2012. It was fifteen hours of Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor and Captain America, ending with the midnight premiere of The Avengers. In spite of my aversion to crowds, it was fun.

Next week, the latest from Marvel--Captain America: The Winter Soldier--opens officially on April 4th, though many theaters are offering an early showing on the 3rd. Collin and I have been anxiously awaiting this latest installment, and I would have preferred to see it at one of those aforementioned matinees--but because Collin's regular days off were Wednesday and Thursday, we would have had to wait almost a week to see it.

Collin suggested we go to the Thursday evening showing. Reluctantly, I agreed, and we ordered our tickets online. We had it all planned: an early dinner at TGI Fridays near the theater before the movie, followed by what could be a long wait in a long line for seating, even though we'd bought our tickets in advance.

Then his boss changed his days off to Mondays and Tuesdays....

Personally, I'm looking forward to the day movies go the way of books and music and, to an extent, TV: via the internet. I believe the day will come when new movies will make their debuts in the comfort of our living rooms. Instead of standing in line at theaters and having to deal with obnoxious moviegoers, we'll simply pay online theaters for a single showing and make our own popcorn and nachos.... 

What's your preference--seeing movies at the cinema or waiting for the DVD? Matinee or evening showings?

And on the subject of movies, William has a review of a classic, Monty Python and the Holy Grail over at his blog today. His reviews are great--be sure to check it out!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Yep, You're in the Right Place!

I just figured it was time to give the ol' blog a facelift.

When I started this blog four years ago, importing a handful of posts from the land of the tumbleweed, MySpace, it was something I was just doing for myself, not really expecting to have any readers beyond my close friends. I'd never been any good at keeping a journal, but after watching my mother's memory disappear after a series of strokes, I wanted to preserve my own memories...just in case.  But I'm now keeping that private journal, and finding, much to my surprise, that this blog actually has followers!

So it was time for a few changes. Hope you approve!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Are You Happy? If So, Let it Show!

I had something else in mind for today's post, but the first thing I heard when I woke this morning is that today is the United Nations' International Day of Happiness...and so, to celebrate being happy, I give you Pharrell William's hit song Happy and the Minions, who never fail to make me smile. 

Have a very happy International Day of Happiness!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Spoiler Alerts (or Do You Want to Know a Secret?)

I confess: I like spoilers. Knowing how a movie ends doesn't ruin it for me at all. I've seen so many movies based on novels I've read, I usually know what's going to happen anyway. And speaking of books, I read the endings first.

My agent once asked me why. "Simple," I said. "If I get hit by a submarine in the middle of Main Street, I don't want to croak not knowing how it ends."

She laughed. "Nobody could get hit by a, wait a minute. Nobody else could, but you could." 

She was joking, of course. It was her way of poking fun at my habit. I still read the ends of novels first. I still search the internet for anything I can find on upcoming movies I want to see. If there's a spoiler out there, I'll find it. I don't need to be surprised. I get my pleasure from the journey, whether or not I know how it ends. 

Recently, I gave William a bit of taunting with some news about the upcoming Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I knew what the two end credits scenes would be. He wanted to be surprised. I ended up dropping a couple of clues, as he did when he told me the end credits scene in Iron Man 2 involved Thor's hammer....

This reminds me of an episode of The Big Bang Theory in which the geeks are at the local comic book store. The owner, Stuart, tells Sheldon a shipment of Green Lantern action figures is scheduled to arrive the next day and offers to put one aside for Sheldon. Sheldon, instead of being grateful, is annoyed, telling Stuart he's been robbed of the pleasure of discovery, desire and ultimately, possession.

Sheldon tends to go overboard...but I know most of you prefer the element of surprise when reading a book or watching a movie or TV show. So here's my question: who likes to be surprised, and who actively seeks out the spoilers?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

When You've Gotta Go, You've Gotta Go--But Would You Pay to Go?

I would.

I hate public restrooms. They're my Number One pet peeve. I've actually considered buying Depends for use when we go out so I wouldn't have to use a public restroom. In spite of the efforts of some establishments to keep them clean, the bathrooms are almost always a mess.

Most people are pigs, it would seem.

One has to wonder what the bathrooms in their homes are like. Ewwwww! Or is it that they're only disgusting in public restrooms because they're inconsiderate pigs who figure since someone else is going to have to clean it up, it doesn't matter if they urinate on the seat or leave the toilet unflushed and full of number two? I'd be embarrassed to leave such a mess. I'm the one who cleans the tables off and stacks the plates in restaurants. 


I wondered for a long time how women could pee on the toilet seat. Men, yes...but women? I got the explanation while watching Kathie Lee and Hoda one morning on Today. Most women are taught to "hover," avoiding contact with the toilet seat. In hovering, they miss the mark just like men do.

I'm not opposed to hovering. I am, however, opposed to not cleaning up after oneself.

One day, Collin and I were shopping at Sam's Club. There's a Jack in the Box practically next door, so we stopped there for lunch. Collin got in line to place our order, so I went back to the restroom. Jack in the Box has single restrooms, no stalls, and this women's room was in use. I waited, until an older woman, clean and well-dressed, emerged, then went inside. What I found pretty much ruined my appetite. Though this gal was getting around a lot better than I was, her hover must have been pretty wobbly, because it was all over everything.

I ran out with every intention of catching up with her to engage in serious public humiliation--but as I've said, the old gal was getting around better than I was. By the time I got out there, she was in her car and driving away.

Earlier this morning, a segment on Today dealt with a proposal to create members-only bathrooms. It would involve construction of restrooms accessible only to those who have paid memberships. Each unit would be cleaned thoroughly after every use.

Oh, I could soooo get on board with that!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Who's the Black Widow's Baby Daddy?

Recently, it was announced that actress Scarlett Johansson is pregnant with her first child--just as Avengers: Age of Ultron is about to begin principal filming. Collin and I traded a lot of jokes that began with the classic "what if" question--what if Black Widow were also pregnant? In the comic books, she's had a lot of lovers, so maybe a paternity test would be needed. And maybe this would make an interesting episode of Maury Povich's show, since he's known for doing paternity tests....

"I'm Maury Povich. Welcome to the show," Povich greets his audience. "Today we have a most interesting case. The beautiful Natasha Romanoff, also known as the Black Widow, is pregnant. To our knowledge, she didn't kill the baby's father after mating, so we're here to try to determine which of the gentlemen on our stage is the lucky daddy. First off, we have Tony Stark, also known as Iron Man--genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist."

Tony Stark looks surprised. "Me? She hates me...not that I'd let that stop me if she still wanted to--"

"Tony!" a woman in the audience shouts.

"I was just kidding, Pepper!" Stark responds.

"If I mated with him, I would kill him afterward!" Natasha snaps.

Povich interrupts, trying to break the tension. "Next we have Thor, also known as the God of Thunder."

"Thor!" This came from another woman in the audience.

"It wasn't me, Jane!" Thor insists. 

"That's what you said last time--and I caught you with Sif!"

"At least I'll live as long as he will!" Sif calls out from another section of the audience.

"Ladies, please!" Maury again tries to maintain control of his own show. "Possible Daddy #3 is Steve Rogers, also known as Captain America."

"It can't be me," Rogers insists. "I'm a gentleman. I'd wait until marriage."

"Yeah--he's the ninety-year-old virgin," Stark quips.

"We can't all be as promiscuous as you are, Stark!" This came from Clint Barton, the Avenger known as Hawkeye--and the only one in the group who insists he is the baby's father.

"Maybe you just don't get the offers, Legolas," Stark shoots back at him.

Maury interrupts. "And we also have Dr. Bruce Banner--"

Banner shakes his head. "I can't risk getting excited," he maintains.

Stark turns on the snark again. "That's a convenient excuse for, shall we say, performance issues," he comments.

Banner jumps up. "You want to see my performance issues firsthand, Stark?"

Stark just grins. "You're not my type, Jolly Green Giant."

"Gentlemen!" Maury shouts, exasperated. "Let's continue. We also have Thor's brother, the God of Mischief--Loki!"

Loki stands up, takes a bow. Natasha rolls her eyes. "Never in a million years."

Loki winks. "You know you want me."

"Yeah, I want you--dead!"

"Please!" Maury begs. "Three more to go, okay?"

Natasha looks puzzled. "Three more?"

"Bear with me, please," he tells her. Then, to the audience: "Next we have James Buchanan Barnes, also known as Bucky on his good days, Winter Soldier on the not-so-good days."

Barnes shakes his head. "I was with her--often--but that was a long time ago!" 

Hawkeye looks at Natasha. "You were with...him?"

She pats his arm affectionately. "As he said, Clint, it was a long time ago."

"How long?"

Maury proceeds. "Next we have SHIELD agent Phillip Coulson."

Coulson also shakes his head. "Can't be me. I was dead at the time."

And last, we have one of the world's all-time most dastardly villains, Red Skull--who couldn't be with us today but joins us via satellite...."

Red Skull appears on the jumbo screen, whereupon most members of the studio audience faint. Natasha is outraged. "Not if he were the only--whatever he is--on earth!" she argues. "I'd be vomiting during conception, not during pregnancy!"

"We could create a brood of superior beings," Red Skull insists.

"I'd prefer my baby be human!"

Maury's relieved when his assistant arrives with the results of the paternity test. "The moment of truth," he announces to the unconscious audience. He opens the envelope and reads the results. "The father of Natasha's baby is...SHIELD director Nick Fury?"

Fury strides onto the stage as Natasha and the other men look confused. "Not exactly. Romanoff, we need more women like you," he says, almost apologetic. "So, during your last physical, we impregnated you with genetically-engineered embryos."

Before he can finish, Natasha has him on the floor, beating him mercilessly. Rogers, Barnes, Coulson and Banner try to pull her off him. Loki just laughs. Thor tries to break up a catfight between Jane and Sif. Stark takes the microphone from a speechless Maury and says, "I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm really enjoying this...."

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Things Are Not Always As They Seem...Or Are They?

One of the curses of being an author (yes, there's more than one) is that very few books, movies or TV shows hold any real surprises for us. We can usually unravel a plot quickly and know what's coming before it happens.

Then there are plots like the one of TV's new series, The Blacklist, a show so well-written and plotted that it challenges the most experienced plotters.

In the series, Raymond "Red" Reddington is a wanted man who's been on the run for the past twenty years--but suddenly turns up at the FBI's offices to surrender himself. He has, he says, a blacklist comprised of the names of the world's most dangerous criminals. He knows how to find them. He will share his knowledge, but only to one person--rookie agent Elizabeth Keen, who has no idea why he's chosen her. She doesn't know Reddington and has no connection to him that she's aware of. Yet he seems to know everything about her. 

At the beginning of the series, it's revealed that Reddington was a genius, an intelligence officer with a promising future, married with a young daughter. When last heard from, he was on his was home on Christmas Eve....twenty years ago. That night, he dropped off the radar. In a recent episode, he talked about that night. He said he had been so anxious to get home, he ran out of gas.  He left his car, full of gifts, and started walking. When he got home, he recalled only that there was blood everywhere.

In another episode, another piece of the puzzle: Red visits Lizzie's adopted father, Sam. Sam is in the hospital. He's dying. The two men obviously know each other. Red tells Sam he's seen Lizzie and praises Sam for the way he's raised her. Sam says he has to tell Lizzie the truth, but Red won't allow it.

This week's episode included another revelation: Lizzie's husband, Tom, married her two years earlier because that was his "assignment." One has to wonder why there would be interest in a rookie agent who had not yet joined the group known as the Post Office...unless she has a connection someone wants.

I have my own theory about Red Reddington, about who he is, his connection to Lizzie and what the Blacklist is really all about. I'll tell you what I suspect, and we'll see, as the show continues, how much I get right....

I believe Lizzie is Red's daughter, in spite of the fact that it's so obvious and the show's promos have repeatedly told us that on The Blacklist, nothing is as it seems.  When Lizzie asked, he didn't deny it. He told her only that it was complicated. If I'm correct in my theory, he can't tell her he's her father, because to do so would put her at even more risk than she is now.

I think that his wife was murdered and his daughter critically injured by someone who was out to get Red himself. Lizzie was so traumatized that she can't remember what happened. Red left her in Sam's care and went rogue to find the killer. His search let him from one criminal connection to the other--the criminals who now occupy the Blacklist. He wants to bring them down, one by one, until he gets all of them. He's returned to the US--and surrendered himself--because he wants to stay close to Lizzie, to protect her. He's told her he'll always protect her.

Red Reddington does not act like a hardened criminal. In more than one episode, he's acted with compassion for others. He even put himself on the line to save the lives of two colleagues. He allowed himself to be taken prisoner to protect Lizzie. How far will he go in the future to protect her...and bring down all of those on his Blacklist?

Time will tell....

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

If You're Wondering if God Has a Sense of Humor, Just Look in the Mirror....

A friend once asked me if I thought God has a sense of humor. I told her to look in the mirror. "That's not funny," she grumbled.

I suppose whether or not it's funny depends upon whether you're human or God. I suspect God finds us quite amusing. He gave us free will, and what we've done with it has been, well, pretty funny when you think about it. As species go, we're spectacular screw-ups. From Eve's stupidity in Eden (what kind of dipstick listens to a snake, for crying out loud?) to the present day, we've managed to elevate idiocy to an art form.

Think about it. When the Great Flood came, how many people boarded the Ark? Though everyone was waiting for the Messiah to come, how many actually recognized him when he arrived? The list of missed boats is a long one.

We think we're the most intelligent species on this planet, but we get more wrong than we get right. And though some of us are arrogant enough to believe there is no higher power than man, God always gets the last laugh. At least we have entertainment value.

A while back, Joss Whedon, writer and director of The Avengers, was interviewed by Entertainment Weekly. In that interview, Whedon proudly acknowledged he's an atheist. He went on to talk about how his lack of belief made him enjoy writing that scene in The Avengers in which Loki arrogantly proclaims himself a god and therefore above everyone else...whereupon the Hulk snatched him up and slammed him around like a rag doll. As he dropped Loki and departed, he growled, "Puny god."  

Avengers 2: Age of Ultron recently began principal filming, and it's rumored the roles of Hawkeye and the Black Widow are much larger than they were in the first movie. This morning, it was announced that actress Scarlett Johansson, who plays the Black Widow, is pregnant with her first child. Sure, she has a stunt double--but depending upon how far along she is, she may not be able to wear the Widow's skin-tight black leather for long. I suspect major script rewrites may be needed....

I'm picturing God, watching and laughing. "Hey, Whedon--a little miracle for Scarlett, and a lot of extra work for you. Who's the puny god now?"

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Forget the Oscars...It's the Razzies' Big Night!

Tonight is Oscar's big night. My partner in crime, William, has that covered in his blog (though I suspect his version will be far more entertaining than what we'll actually see on TV). I'm here to cover the Razzies--the award honoring the absolute worst in filmmaking.

The 34th Golden Raspberry Awards were presented last night from the elegant Ignited Spaces in Hollywood (okay, it's actually a techie conference/workspace). There was no red carpet, no celebrities stopping to chat with the entertainment press, no Fashion Police to praise (or ridicule) what everyone was wearing...though that might have been fun....

"Lindsay Lohan, who are you wearing?"

Lohan, looking confused, might say, "I don't know. This is what I was given when I left rehab. I think it's from Kmart...."

"There's Johnny Depp. Johnny, who are you wearing?"

"That's vomit. I did a little too much celebrating last night, y'know. Didn't have time to go home and change."

"Ah, right...."

"I see Will Smith...let's get his thoughts on this. Will, how does it feel to share Razzie nominations with your son Jaden? Ouch! Somebody call the police--he punched me in the face!" could have been fun.

The Razzies are determined by a vote of their membership, much like the Oscars (except nobody really campaigns for a Razzie). However, this year, a new category was added in which anyone could vote for a $1 donation: the "I Want My $10 Back" Award. No word yet on who got that one.

Will Smith may really feel like punching someone right now. He won the Razzie for Worst Supporting Actor, Jaden was named Worst Actor, and together they won Worst Screen Combo for their roles in Worst Movie nominee After Earth. (Describing their movie as Planet Nepotism on the Razzies' website was an almost certain indication that they'd be the big winners.) I'm betting there will be no Golden Raspberries on display on their mantle, though.

The Lone Ranger won Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-Off or Sequel. I've never seen it, but from what I've heard, it should have been the Worst Movie winner. That award, however, went to Movie 43, which also earned top dishonors for its 13 directors and 19 alleged screenwriters.

Oddly enough, Grown-Ups 2 (and its star, six-time Golden Raspberry winner Adam Sandler), which received the most nominations, got no Raspberries. (Make of that what you will....)