Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanks, But No Thanks

by Jo Robertson

Since Thanksgiving just passed and families and friends often comment on the things they’re thankful for during the year, I thought it'd be fun to share our "thanks” and “no thanks” for the year’s happenings.

First of all,
a great big wahooooo thanks for Johnny Depp. Honestly, did you ever think when he was in "A Nightmare on Elm Street" and "21 Jump Street" that he’d also be capable of such a variety of acting roles as “Sweeney Todd” and “Pirates of the Caribbean”?

No thanks to Angelina Jolie. Okay, okay, she’s apparently a fine actor, philantropist and mother, but those lips just give me the creeps. Oh, come on! I just said what everyone’s thinking!

Thanks to FX for “Sons of Anarchy.” That show is utte
rly amoral, inappropriate, and unfit for the ears and eyes of children of any age, but Jax Teller, played by Brit Charlie Nunnam, has got to be the cutest thing since, well, Johnny Depp, and I’d tune in to the Biker Gang, drug-running, gun-running show just to watch his cute self.

No thanks to the new Blackberry Storm. Really, do we need one more electr
onic device to engage people’s attention when they’re actually supposed to be listening to you?

On the other hand, it has so many features I think I can cancel my housecleaning service. It'll probably do that too.

Thanks to Pink’s “Wait.” Love the beat, love the music, love the sassy theme.

No thanks to Pink’s “Wait” video. One word: bleeeeeech!

Thanks for the cast of “The Mentalist." This is one of the most cleverly-written shows of the fall television season.

No thanks Sara Tancredi's return to “Prison Break.” I thought her head – and her acting – was better in the box.

And whatever happened to T.J.? (He's in the middle of the photo, right in front of Sara Tancredi.

Thanks to Tina Fey who played Sarah Palin so well on SNL that when the Alaskan governor actually appeared on the hit comedy show, many Americans thought Palin was the fake.

No Thanks to botox. Who wants to inject botulinum toxin Type A produced in culture to your face?

Thanks for wrinkles. I like to pretend they’re the verification that I’ve actually lived and have been around the block a few times.

Thanks for electronic mail, instant message, and especially, for writers, electronic contests. Do we really want to leave our grandchildren tree-less?

What about you, Banditas, Bandita Buddies, and visitors? What great big shout out of “thanks” or “no thanks” would you give?

Thanks for a new favorite TV show this year? A great movie -- Daniel Craig's James Bond, anyone? A new addition to your family? No thanks to something you're sick to death of seeing/hearing -- annoying commercials, drivers with cell phones, bad coffee? A new gadget that just plain doesn't work? A bad movie that was highly touted? Or something you could do without?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Book or the Film?

by Anna Sugden

There has been a lot of controversy lately with the new Bond film 'Quantum of Solace' (where do they get these titles?!). For those of you unaware of the issues troubling Bond fans, it's all to do with the last two (Daniel Craig) movies.

You see, they go back to the beginning and tell the story of how Bond developed into the character we know today. The purists believe that this is the only way to see Bond and that this is as close to the James Bond of the Ian Fleming books as we've seen, since George Lazenby. Film fans, meanwhile, are horrified that some of the classic Bond-isms eg 'Martini, shaken not stirred' and Q, are missing from these films. It doesn't matter (much *g*) who plays Bond, but the Bond-isms have to be there.

All of which got me thinking about the problems with turning books into films.

Think of the controversy about the Harry Potter films. Though it's obvious to anyone with an ounce of common sense that turning an 800-plus page tome into a two hour film is just the teensiest bit tricky, die-hard fans get quite upset that chunks of the story have had to be left out. They don't see why it's a problem to capture all the depth of characterisation and complexity of plot, without seeing that the end result would be a major bum-numbing epic!

They had the same problem with Dan Brown's 'The Da Vinci Code'.

Similarly, the recent version of 'Pride and Prejudice' (once you've got over the horror of anyone other than Colin Firth playing Mr Darcy!) raised hackles by straying from the well-known and much-loved story.

That's not to say that any of these films is bad - they're just not 'as good' as the book. Personally, I think they're very entertaining and enjoy them for what they are ... but that's just me (except for 'Pride and Prejudice' - which I didn't like!)

You only need to speak with authors like Lisa Gardner about the adapatations of their books to know how they feel about what was done with their beloved stories.

On the other side of the coin, are the movies that are better (in the viewer's mind) than the book. The one that stands out most for me, is 'Practical Magic' (starring Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman and the drool-worthy Goran Visnij and Aidan Quinn). While Alice Hoffman's book is very good, the film has much more charm.

And then, there are the multitude of TV adaptations (Thank you, BBC) and movies that are really good translations of the printed word to the screen. The Colin Firth version of 'Pride and Prejudice', 'A Town Like Alice' (the Bryan Brown TV series) and Inspector Morse are just a few examples.

I've seen a number of debates about potential movies made from popular series. Who would play Eve Dallas and Roarke (pause to drool) if they made the JD Robb '... In Death' series into movies? What about Ranger, Joe Morelli and Stephanie Plum from Janet Evanovich's series? It's a brave director and producer who take on such feats - because you know you going to irritate a bunch of people no matter what you do!

I know that the fabulous Robert Crais has sworn not to allow his books to be made into movies or TV series, because he wants the reader to have their own interpretation of Elvis Cole and Joe Pike - not one fashioned by Hollywood.

So, what do you think? Do you like books being converted to films? Which do you think have been done well and which badly? Have you read a book which inspired a film and been disappointed? Does it matter if book and film don't match exactly? Are there books you would love to see turned into movies? We all dream of our books being optioned, but how would you feel if the only recognisable element was the title?!

And who would play the yummy scrummy Roarke? Or Ranger?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Seduced by the dark side

by Suzanne Welsh

For the past year I've had a cell phone. Yes, me, the lone hold out in my town where people upgrade electronic devices like changing shoes, broke down and bought my first cell phone. To give you a little past history of why this was so monumental, let me take you back to an age when cell phones were nothing more than a glint in Ray Bradbury's eyes as he wrote his first Star Trek screenplay.

As a young teen I loved talking on the phone. It was the social network of our time. The phone hung on the wall in the kitchen, but the cord was long enough to stretch to the stairs leading down to our basement. (In Ohio we all had basements.) So after dinner, washing the dishes and doing my homework I could spend half an hour perched on the top step talking to my friends--usually my best friend Marion or my equally good friend Terry. We'd talk about school, boys, friends, boys, clothes, boys, music....and yeah...boys

That stayed the norm until I went away to nursing school. Then I'd talk to boys, friends and my family on the pay phone at the end of the dorm hall, a fact that probably saved my nursing school career, since it limited the time I could spend distracted from studying, (minus the TV time, the chatting in other people's dorm rooms time, oh yeah and the vodka on the weekend time.)

By the time I started my family portable phones were the new rage. But I stood by my old favorite, the wall mounted phone. Didn't have to worry about charging it between uses. Always knew where it was...mounted on the wall. And any child wanting to talk on the phone had to do it within hearing range of the mama. :)

But then we moved to Texas about the same time cell phones invaded every home. It was amazing to look around when stopped at red lights to see every driver in front, behind and around me talking on a cell phone. One day I was at the groceries, enjoying the quiet as I thumped the cantelopes, only to have my peace distrubed by a lady yelling at her child over the cell phone. Please, I'd come shopping to get away from my family. Why would I want them to be able to find me via a portable phone?

After that a few things happened to change my mind.

1) I became a romance writer. I made friends and started traveling more for my new career. I needed to stay in touch with my family, and having a cell phone meant no long distance bills to my husband, no matter where I'd roamed.

2) My daughter became pregnant. Now it was very important for me to be reached any hour of the day or night.

3) It was time to come out of the dark ages. People were actually texting and on the internet from their phones. Sigh. The old wall mounted phone could never do that!

So now I find myself charging my phone when I'm at home. My kids ONLY call my cell, unless I don't answer that. At work, I put it on vibrate and carry it in my pocket...but only IF I'm expecting one of them to call. Despite my seduction to the dark side of modern communication, I refuse to talk on the phone in a patient's room!

So dear friends, how about you? Have you ever held out against something, only to slowly be seduced to it's good points?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks

by Susan Seyfarth

Today is Thanksgiving, that unique American holiday in which we gather our loved ones together, cook all day, then stuff ourselves with copious amounts of food. Often we'll squeeze in a few (or ten or twelve) hours of TV, be it a football game (American football, of course, not soccer), the Thansgiving Day Parade coverage (I'm a Macy's girl myself) or the first viewing of Miracle on 34th Street for the season.

What?? You've never seen Miracle on 34th Street? Are you busy right now? Because it's on at my house.

But while we do love our families, & the TV traditions are important, let's not kid ourselves. Today is all about the food. Golden turkeys, fluffy mashed potatoes, rich stuffing, my mom's mysterious corn casserole that is delicious in spite of (or possibly because of) the fact that it consists nothing but butter, sour cream, a couple cans of corn & a box of Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix. And then there's the apple pie--French Apple, of course, with a crumbly top that makes grown men weep with gratitude.

My husband's family throws a pan of home-made mac & cheese into the mix. Grandma Pickett's recipe. It took me a few years to get on board with this break from tradition but now a Thanksgiving table looks sort of naked without it. The first time my husband (then my boyfriend) joined my family for Thanksgiving, he insisted on making it for us. My aunt leaned over during dessert & said to me, "Do NOT let this one get away."

I didn't.

At this point, Thanksgiving without any of one these things is like, well, like pie without ice cream. Like chips without salsa or pizza without an icy cold Coke. Like the year my mom decided on an all white Christmas tree rather than just throwing on every ornament a kindergartener had ever given her. Okay for some people, I guess. Pretty on the pages of Better Homes & Gardens. Just wrong for us. If it's not a tacky, tinsel laden tree, how are we supposed to know it's ours?

So tell me, what was the hugest break from tradition your family ever risked around the holidays? Was it great? Was it a disaster? Did it spawn any new traditions or just an solemn agreement to never do it this way again?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Brief Lull

by Nancy Northcott

Before we start today's blog, please join the entire lair in wishing our friends Maria and Marisa at RNTV a very happy birthday! We're all grateful for the wonderful promotion they give our genre. If you get a chance, pop over there and give them birthday greetings.

And now back to our regularly scheduled program . . .

Tomorrow is, in the United States, Thanksgiving Day, a time for friends and family to gather, take time out from the usual rush of life, and reflect on the good things in our lives. It's generally a day of tranquility, of peace and reflection.

And then the madness begins! "Black Friday," as it's called because so many merchants depend on it to keep their ledgers in black ink for the rest of the year, follows hard on Thanksgiving's heels. Malls and big box stores become swamped. While this day theoretically belongs to thoughts of others, to shopping for something to bring joy to the people for whom we were grateful the day before, it seems to bring out the worst in some people.

Parents start scheming--who do they know who works in retail and can get this year's equivalent of a Cabbage Patch Kid or Tickle Me Elmo? (I confess to having spent a couple of hours driving around town in search of the Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Disk one Christmas Eve and finding one only because I happened to walk into the toy store just after someone returned it.) Special deals on limited-quantity items spur people to stand in line for hours, then stampede into the store, often with serious injuries resulting. People battle over the last Hot Gizmo in stock as if they were Joan's gladiators. The police often have to come restore order. This is the spirit of Christmas? Or is it our American tendency to compete coming to the fore in a very destructive way? Or a little of both?

Just as an aside here, I'm a sucker for Christmas decorations. Seriously. I'd rather not have seen them since before Halloween, but after December 1, I love them. I even loved them on my recent trip to NY and felt that, considering that I was in town for just a couple of days, the big tree at Rockefeller Center really should've been lit so I could see it. Even if December 1 was a week away (just kidding, but I've only seen it once and was so hoping to see it again).

But the premature appearance of tinsel and holly and Santa seem to gear us all up for this shopping marathon-sprint- madhouse. Then Thanksgiving comes, and it's "Oh, my gosh, the good stuff will be gone if I don't hurry!" For some people. Not for everyone, of course. I know plenty of people who go out on Black Friday with a plan, avoid places that could lead to mass insanity and violence, and are home by lunchtime.

From there, though, it's holiday cards, home decorations, shopping, packing, mailing--an evolving list that leads lead up to a "whew, it's done!" about midnight on Christmas Eve. And, sometimes, to a letdown on Christmas morning, a sense that weeks of work led up to a brief frenzy of tearing paper and blinking tree lights. Sort of like the scene of the family opening gifts in the dh's favorite Christmas movie, A Christmas Story.

Our Christmases were leisurely when the boy was little. We'd get up, peek into our stockings, and watch him play with Santa's gifts while his dad made Swedish pancakes, a tradition in his family. Then we'd have our pancakes and open our gifts. Since our son wanted to play with each new gift, we paused frequently in the opening process to enjoy watching him do that. Now that he has "graduated" to electronics and video games, it isn't the same, but we still try to take the day slowly, to really look at and think about the various gifts we exchange, the people who gave them, and the fact that our family has reached another Christmas.

We also have friends, Roberta and Art, who are Jewish but loved Christmas. Since they don't feel right about decorating, they came over every year until they moved out of state to help us decorate our tree. We'd spend a leisurely afternoon putting up ornaments, visiting, and discussing the holiday. They often contributed ornaments to the cause, and Roberta made us a beautiful Christmas tree skirt that we cherish. Every year, we think of them when we hang their ornaments or drape that wonderful skirt around the tree.

Because I love Christmas decorations and the dh loves everything Christmas (and has made his own Christmas cards--now our cards--since long before I knew him), we've amassed a fair number of decorative items. We try to buy an ornament everywhere we go on vacation (though we have none from England, which seems strange when we think how much we love it), and people give us ornaments and decorations. A couple of years ago, though, we were both going nuts in the lead-up to the holiday. We looked at each other and said, "What are we doing? This is supposed to make our house cheerful, not transform us into frenzied lunatics." So we put up the tree, put out the snow globes, and stuck the candletower in the middle of the table. And called it done. And you know what? We had just as much fun as we would've had with every piece of holiday bric-a-brac in place. Maybe we even had more fun because we didn't hit December 25 in a state of deadline anxiety.

So what do you find most challenging about the holiday season? What's your favorite coping technique? Do you have a favorite memory of holiday preparations?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Home is Where the ... Weather Is!

A few days ago I left balmy Southern California, where it was a sunny 72 degrees, to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with family in Buffalo, New York, where it’s currently, OMG, 29 degrees.

Does the thermometer really go down that far? Apparently so.

There’s snow on the ground here. It’s cold, my friends! I packed warm clothing but I must confess, there is absolutely nothing in my wardrobe that could possibly withstand the level of chill I feel when I walk outside my father-in-law’s house. It is down-to-the-bone frigid and it makes me wonder why anyone would live here when they could live in a warmer place. Like, say, Southern California, for instance.

On the other hand, my mom lives in the Southern California desert near Palm Springs. I spent a week with her last summer and it reached 118 degrees every day. You read that right! I seriously wondered who in their right mind would live here when they could live in a cooler place? Like, say, at the beach where I live.

Why do any of us live where we live? Did we choose it? Were we born there and never felt the need to leave? Did we move there with our spouse? Maybe our company transferred us there or we went to college in the area and decided to stay. There’s something that keeps us tied to our area of the country and it’s probably not weather. Well, not completely.

The woods behind my father-in-law’s house are beautiful, especially when the sky is blue and the trees and ground are lightly coated with snow as they are now. People are friendly and greet him with a smile. I can see why he loves it here and why he’s stayed here his entire life. I can also see why his son, my husband, moved away after college as fast as his legs could carry him. He loves warm weather and loves the beach even more than I do.

My mother loves the sun and wouldn't move away from the desert for any amount of money.

I have friends in Southern California who, despite having lived here all their lives, can’t wait to move to a cooler climate. They’re exploring towns in Utah or Colorado and I can see their point. Let’s face it, SoCal weather conditions cause fires and mudslides. We have earthquakes. It’s hardly paradise. I’ve had friends who’ve moved away after one too many earthquakes and are so much happier now. One friend moved to Florida and has lived through four hurricanes and she’s still happier than she ever was in California.

So why do we stay wherever we are? It’s not about the weather, is it? No, it’s much more simple than that. It’s just ... home.

Where do you live? What do you love about it? How’s the weather? Snowy and cold? Rainy and wet? Sunny and balmy? I’ve got a $15 Amazon gift certificate to give away for the most interesting weather report!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Lions--Archetypes for Romantic Heroes?

By KJ Howe

Magnetic eyes, a powerful roar, and the ability to leave females weak in the knees...lions have a lot in common with romantic heroes. I became fascinated with lions during my recent trips to Kenya and South Africa. Our guide spent hours scouring the grasslands searching for evidence that the lions had been nearby. And we found two males resting after gorging on a wildebeest. It wasn’t until later that I discovered these similarities between male lions and heroes:

Both skyrocket women’s heart rates to well over 200—in this case, the lion wins hands down. I was twenty feet away from them in an open truck and I thought my heart was going to jump out of my chest!

Both have mesmerizing eyes that you can get lost in. Those golden eyes remind me of Spanish conquistadors.

Both have great manes...I mean, isn’t hair one of the things that drive women wild?

Both have healthy sex drives when they are interested in reproduction—lions may copulate between twenty and forty times a day during a mating bout.

Both have powerful legs, a strong jaw, and a short attention span. Trust me, you never want to see them yawn!

Both have a healthy dose of testosterone when it comes to protecting their territory/women.

Both have healthy appetites and they generally like to prowl at night.

Both romantic heroes and lions don’t mind letting women do the heavy lifting when it comes to meal preparation. After all, lionesses do the majority of the hunting for their pride and lions just enjoy the results.

Both have bodies that won’t stop. Large male lions can weigh over 550lbs and none of their bulk is fat.

Both are vulnerable species...lions have had an irreversible population decline of 30-50% over the past two decades. How can we stop romantic heroes from becoming extinct???

The bottom line is romantic heroes and lions share many traits. Picture yourself as a heroine in a romantic novel. What are some of the animalistic qualities men possess that would appeal to you?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Bandita Booty Galore!

by Anna Sugden

Just been to the supermarket and picked up my Cadbury's prizes - the lady on the till probably thought I had a serious chocolate problem!

I have two lots of prizes to give out.

First, for outstanding creativity in Collective Nouns. It was a very tough decision! So many great ideas. Thank you all for playing. But, I had to pick some prize winners so, *drum roll* the Cadbury's goes to:

Pat Cochran

Cas 2 AJS

Ms Hellion

And a special bonus to Keira's daughter, if she emails me her Barbie and bunny collective nouns.

Second, a winner from my Oreo blog. My tuxedo cat, Jersey Girl, put her paw into the pot and pulled out ...


Congratulations to all the winners!! Please email your snail mail addys to me at Anna at Annasugden dot com, and I'll get the chocolate treats in the post to you.

As TIme Goes By...

By Donna MacMeans

Can you believe it's almost Thanksgiving? Where has the year gone? Suddenly it's cold and I'm thinking about baking cookies, buying Christmas cards, and buying a 2009 calendar.
Of course you can't buy just one calendar. There's the big month at a glance calendar that hangs in the kitchen with all the family events, birthdays, medical appts., exercise classes, etc. There's my personal month-at-a-glance dayrunner calendar to track writing events, accounting classes, aerobic classes, etc. Then there's my smaller weekly calendar that I use to track writing progress. These are all paper calendars - which I admit our my favorite. I like the pictures :-)

The banditas maintain a yahoogroups calendar so we can keep track of our various blogging days. I belong to a goal setting group that also uses an internet calendar for its email reminders on meetings. I don't maintain a personal computer calendar or a PDA calendar but I know many do.

I've read that calendars are man's (or woman's) attempt to organize their busy lives, to - in a sense - control time. Given that time is determined by the cosmos, this is our attempt to link our daily lives to the heavens. But I wanted to talk about the paper variety. I was at the bookstore today and the variety never fails to amaze me.

I've loaded this blog with calendars that I'm thinking would appeal to the tastes of the various banditas. Can you match up which calendar goes with who?
Not sure I've got one for everyone, but I tried.
I hope I've got the click throughs set up that you can click on any of these images if you'd like to buy it. Are you a calendar afficionado? What type of calendars do you prefer? I must admit I used a calendar with lunar phases marked to keep track of the moon in THE TROUBLE WITH MOONLIGHT. I'll send a copy of THE TROUBLE WITH MOONLIGHT to one commentor.
So let's talk 2009.