Sunday, April 6, 2014

Snippet Sunday: No Room at the Inn?

This week's Snippet is from my Toni Collins romantic comedy, Ms. Maxwell and Son (soon to be an ebook). It's the story of divorced mother-to-be Katie Maxwell, a cartoonist, her scruffy musician neighbor, Jack Spangler, and his toilet-flushing cockatoo, Sam. In this scene, Katie and Jack have just met. She's in labor and needs a ride to the hospital in a snowstorm....

Katie nodded. "Right. After all, Mary and Joseph did make it to Bethlehem on a burro," she reminded herself aloud.

"A donkey," Jack corrected, opening the door for her.

She slid inside, then looked up at him. "What?"

"A donkey. They used a donkey," he told her, tossing her overnight case into the back seat.

She shrugged. "An ass is an ass," she said.

Friday, April 4, 2014


There's a saying...disasters come in threes. I used to scoff at that one. Until last night. Collin and I experienced our own little disaster trifecta. We've both been anxiously awaiting this movie--so much so that we bought our tickets online, in advance. As I wrote in a previous post, we'd purchased them for the earliest showing on Thursday evening, since Collin was off on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Then his days off were changed to Mondays and Tuesdays. He did manage to get Thursday off. Disaster averted. 

Yesterday, storms hit our area--all day long. I was starting to think we should go see Noah, to get some instruction on ark-building. We had an early dinner at TGI Fridays near Ronnies 20 Cine and went to the theater at 4:00, even though the movie was scheduled for 8:00. Lines tend to form early for Marvel movies, and we wanted to be as close to the front of the line as possible to get good seats.

We were the only ones in line.

The long lines came later, for the 11:30 showing. Those who did attend the 8:00 showing arrived much closer to that start time. While waiting, we discovered that an error had been made in the online ticket sale and our tickets were for the 3D showing. I hate 3D. Since I only have sight in one eye, 3D doesn't work for me. I get 2.5D...and a headache. 

Fortunately, theater management was happy to switch us to the 2D showing. Second disaster averted.

Finally, the movie started. And stopped abruptly fifteen minutes later. We were informed that a tornado was confirmed on the ground nearby and the movie would resume once the all-clear was given. It's a good thing the theater has a phones-off policy during movies. I can imagine what a theater full of phones issuing emergency alerts would have sounded like.

Finally, the movie resumed. Third disaster averted.

Was the movie worth all the trouble? Absolutely. It's a darker film than I normally prefer, certainly darker than Captain America: The First Avenger, and it's more political thriller than superhero action movie. But it's still a Marvel movie. The characterization is impressive and the humor is still there. The relationship between Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) and Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) has grown in the two years since they first worked together as part of SHIELD's Avengers Initiative. They're comfortable with each other, evidenced in the film's opening, when Romanoff finds Rogers and new friend Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie) on a Washington DC street and asks how to get to the Smithsonian. "I'm picking up a fossil," she says, a reference to Rogers' age (95, as he was born in 1918!).

At first, Rogers is finding it difficult to trust SHIELD director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). Fury raised suspicions in The Avengers when Rogers, Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) discovered Fury had neglected to tell them SHIELD was developing weapons of mass destruction. Now, Rogers finds that Romanoff has been ordered by Fury to take data from the hard drive aboard a ship on which SHIELD hostages were held. He confronts Fury...but soon finds Fury himself is targeted by other SHIELD operatives and is on the run.

As Rogers, Romanoff and Wilson search for the truth, they find SHIELD has been taken over by an organization Rogers believed he'd neutralized back in 1944. A member of the World Council (Robert Redford)...a corrupt politician (Garry Shandling)...SHIELD operatives...their tentacles of power are everywhere. The trio no longer knows who can and can't be trusted. "How do we tell the good guys from the bad guys?" Wilson asks.

"If they're shooting at us, they're bad," Rogers tells him.

Then he discovers it's really not that simple.

The enemy has a secret weapon. "He's called the Winter Soldier," Romanoff tells him, recalling her own encounter with the super-assassin, years ago, and the scars it left on her. He's a super soldier like Rogers, with a metal arm designed to do serious damage. The difference? When he's not needed, he's kept in cryostasis. No real life, nothing beyond carrying out the orders of his masters.

Rogers faces off with the Winter Soldier...and discovers the assassin is his best friend, James Buchanan "Bucky" Barnes (Sebastian Stan), the man Rogers has considered a brother since their youth in Brooklyn.  Rogers recalls Barnes' role in the Howling Commandos, heroes of World War II, and his tragic fall into a ravine from a moving train while they were attempting to capture Dr. Arnim Zola (Toby Jones), a scientist working with Hydra, a Nazi-offshoot. He's stunned that Barnes is alive--but doesn't remember him or anything of his past life.

Will the conspiracy be exposed before it's too late? Will Barnes regain his memory before he and Rogers find themselves in a fight to the death? Will Stan Lee make his usual cameo appearance?  My recommendation: see the movie and find out! And be sure you check out the great review of this film by my partner in crime and Marvel expert, William, at his blog!

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?