Monday, September 30, 2013

The Bennies of Being a Sort-of Grownup

I don’t know about you, but when the season changes, so do my taste buds. (No, autocorrect, I don’t mean ‘taste butts’ thankyouverymuch.) Lately, I’ve gone from sandwiches and apples to craving soup and baked beans. (Hello, winter padding!) Pretty soon, no doubt, I’ll be jonesing for melted cheese and hot chocolate (not necessarily together).

Anyway, the other evening, as Arizona and I rubbed elbows in our cozy kitchen, putting together our dinner, he pulled out a can of chili-flavored baked beans. The scene went like this:

Me: (Giving it a dubious look, much as I had done when he put said can in our cart at the grocery store.) Chili baked beans?
Arizona: Why not?
Me: (Thinking: Because I'm grilling shrimp? Followed by, Oh, what the heck. Nobody’s grading us on the four food groups.) Rock on.

Later, when we dig in:

Me: You can have my beans.
Arizona: Not digging the chili flavor?
Me: (Thinking of a Chopped basket gone wrong.) Not so much. No worries, I’ll grab a salad or something.
Arizona: (Bites in. Grimaces.) Urk. Not my favorite, either.
Me: Want to toss it and I’ll fire up a can of the normal kind?
Arizona: (Hesitates with another bite in front of his face. Blinks. Lowers his spoon.) Actually, yeah.
Me: (Laughing.) Feels wrong, doesn’t it? Let’s be naughty.

Kind of like the ‘don’t run with scissors’ mantra, I figure the ‘don’t waste food’ chorus is ingrained in many of us from a young age. But just as I reserve the right to run with scissors now and then (granted, thinking to myself as I do, ‘You’d better not fall and stab yourself, or you’re going to get an I-told-you-so from Mom’), I figure we work hard. We can waste a can of food now and then. Especially when it’s chili-flavored baked beans.

So what about you? Had any culinary missteps lately? Got any illicit pleasures (PG-rated, please! LOL) that come with being not-a-kid?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Happy with the ending?

So last night, Arizona and I couched it and watched the unrated version of WORLD WAR Z. Okay, it was totally me--he probably would've chosen a Discovery Channel rerun over zombies. But since we were on the comfy couch and I hit the 'buy now' button while he was web surfing on his iPad, he got to watch it too. 

I won't spoil it for anyone who might have WWZ on their to-be-watched list. Instead I'll give it a generic review of: totally watchable, decent use of science, and overall not a bad use of $4.99 and two hours of my life. Interestingly, though, as the credits rolled, Arizona said, "I wonder what happened in the original ending?"

And I said, "Hm. Good question."

See, I'm a low-level movie geek who likes to follow the gossip, not of actors and their affairs and DUIs, but of directors, producers, and some of the big decisions that go into moviemaking. So, some months ago, I had remarked to Arizona that WWZ had floundered during post-production, a new team had been brought in, and they had wound up writing and shooting a new end to the movie. As a writer, I appreciated the balls it took for the Powers That Be to listen to their storytellers and commit the time and money to a re-shoot. Kind of like when I throw out the middle third of a book, not because it was horrible, but because I suddenly figured out how to make it awesome. 

Was the 'new' ending to WWZ awesome? Well, it worked, but I wouldn't say it blew me away. Which does kind of make a girl wonder how bad the original had been. And it got me thinking about other movies that have made me think, Wow. I totally want to redo that ending.

And, yes, City of Angels, I'm looking at you.

Meg Ryan, Nick Cage, paranormal romance ... what's not to love? Well, for me, it's the &%*%%@@ ending. But I love the rest of the movie. Like, love it with whipped cream and a cherry kind of love. So whenever it's on TV, I'll plonk down and watch it ... right up to the last five or ten minutes. Then I switch over to a Discovery Channel rerun, or Iron Chef or something. Because in my world, I choose to believe that the movie is over. Done. Finis. Happy.

So how about you? Is there a movie where you really, really wish you could rewrite the ending? Hit me with it! (I'm sure I'll think of others as we go.)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Rainy Day Snooze

Hello ReaderFriends! I'm coming to you live from the last day of Arizona's and my vacation, which, while not exactly turning out as planned, has been appropriately relaxing, with neither of us dying to return to work tomorrow. And, as vacation's last hurrah, it seems fitting that it's raining today--which means no biking, no kayaking, no finishing up the fresh paint on the upstairs window trim.

And you know what? I'm totally okay with that. In fact, I slept in late, weighted down by a couple of cats who have gotten cuddly once more (I say that in a relative sense when it comes to Lucy T. Cat, but still) as the nights have cooled off. There's just something cosmically right about sleeping in on a gray morning, then lingering over tea and listening to the rain go pitter-patter on our skylight, or opening a window to listen to the drops shuffling through the trees outside. And, of course, the irritated 'meow' coming from the front door, where Lucy firmly believes her humans should turn off the wet already.

I don't know what we'll do today, but I'm guessing there will be some lazing around involved, maybe a book and some hot chocolate. And then tomorrow, I'll find a way to hit the ground running with the revisions to the next Mustang Ridge book. For now, though, there's rain, cuddling, and that hot chocolate calling my name ...

So tell me, friends, what's your gray day indulgence? What am I forgetting on this last, lazy day of vacation?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Who's Your Blankie?

Recently, Arizona, the mountain bikes and I went away for a few days, to a ski resort that opens up for the summer to bikers who want to ride the lifts up and the trails down. The lazy way to do it? Maybe. But fun ;)

Now, I don't know about you, but I don't sleep that well in hotels, especially the first night I'm there. I've tried all the tricks I know to combat this over the years- taking melotonin or Z-Quil, closing the curtains, opening the curtains, bringing a tiny travel-size white noise maker, having a glass of wine, not drinking any caffeine the day before ... it doesn't seem to matter. If I get a couple of hours of real sleep that first night, I'm lucky. 

This time, though, I knew I wanted to get some sleep, but couldn't have the morning-after groggy-hangover of having taken meds. So I did it. I gave in and did something I've been fighting for years, associating it with being old, inflexible, and no longer able to throw a sleeping bag on the ground and call it home. [Or perhaps admitting that I'm old, inflexible, and no longer able to throw a sleeping bag on the ground and call it home. Sigh.]

I brought my pillow and my blankie with me.

I did. I admit it. Here's Arizona, who can sleep anywhere, anytime, for longer than seems like it should be humanly possible. And here's me, with my pillow and blankie, like Linus from the Peanuts. And you know what? It helped. Not in an instant-fix sort of way, putting me deeply asleep the moment my head hit that familiar memory-foam goodness in its dark blue pillow case, but better than usual the first night, and each night after. 

So I'd say I'm a convert, at least when we're driving places and have the extra room. Flying? Well, we'll see about that. I'm not sure I'm ready to schlep through the airport carrying my pillow and blankie quite yet. Unless ... what do you guys say? Can I claim my bedding as the new 'in' accessory? Should I get over myself? What's your sleeping-away-from-home confession? A pillow? A blankie? A Teddy bear? Inquiring minds want to know!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Ooohhhh, Jericho!

Okay, I'll admit it: I'm not very scientific about naming my characters. I don't have a dozen baby naming books, broken down by the most popular names of each decade and with long paragraphs of name origins and meanings. I used to, but I never used them so I gave them away. Most often, I picture the character in my mind, call up what I know about them, and try on names until one fits. Then I keep trying for a while to see if a different one fits better. 

Occasionally I'll be more rigorous (if you want to call it that), and look at name lists online. The gods and kings of the ancient Maya weren't much help on the heroes and heroines (Ten-Frog? Really?), but the leader board for the PBR and PRCA (bull riding/rodeo associations) have been useful for populating Mustang Ridge, as have name lists of Wyoming Pioneers during the wagon-train days.

Which leads us to Jericho. I recently heard from my editor on an outline I had turned in. Now, an outline can be anything from a few paragraphs of 'this is what I'm thinking about for the next book' to an intricate, seventy-some page scene-by-scene breakdown--JR Ward and Suz Brockmann both do very detailed outlines. Me, I can do a detailed outline, but since I'm only going to stick to it for the first quarter of the book before the story takes over and veers off on its own course, it's just a waste of time.

Anyway, this was an outline of the two-page, general variety, but it gave my editor enough detail to have some really great feedback, especially at the point where I asked, "Is this too dark? Should I do this other thing instead?" (Having been a suspense/paranormal author for way longer than I've written Westerns, I'm sometimes tempted to drop a dead body into Mustang Ridge. Must. Resist.) However, she also gave me some feedback I didn't expected. To whit: "How attached are you to the hero's name? I'm not loving Jericho."

Now, I make it a point not to be too attached to much when it comes to my stories, at least in the initial formative stages, mostly because I know how much my books evolve as I'm writing. So, even though I like the name Jericho for a hero, and had used that as his name in the prior book (fixable, as that book is still in the editing stage), I went back to my pioneer lists and drawing boards, and shot her a few other name suggestions, and we agreed on a new monicker for Mr. Babcock. In closing, though, she mentioned that she just couldn't imagine a woman saying, "Ooooh, Jericho!" during a love scene.

Which, of course, means that I've had "Ooooh, Jericho" stuck in my head all weekend. 

Now, when I was training horses professionally, I worked with a horse named Jericho--a handsome, good-natured Quarter Horse with a kind eye, a solid, no-nonsense disposition, and a wicked sense of humor that would come out when you least expected it. Handsome, no-nonsense and occasionally wicked ... yeah, that's my hero. But maybe my editor knew a Jericho back in school, and he was a total bully. Or maybe she knew a Jericho in a past life? Because the thing is, sometimes we just have feelings about a certain name.

See, if left to my own devices, I would name every villain 'Victor.' I don't know why; it just feels right. I don't think I've ever known a Victor, and I'm sure no Victor has ever done anything wretched to me ...  but there it is. And, yeah, I'll admit that I've done the author payback once or twice, naming villains (or dead bodies) after people who have annoyed me in my day-to-day. But Jericho? Nope, I've got only positive feelings towards that, even to the point that I could imagine a woman saying, "Ooohhh, Jericho" in a love scene.

What about you? What names turn you off? What names make you instantly want to like the person, even if the circumstances suggest you really shouldn't? And, hey, what do you think about Jericho??