Twenty Facts About Me

Day two of the June blogging challenge sounded easy. Just needed to make a list of twenty facts about myself. Hmmm… this took a little longer to put together than I expected.

1. One of my favorite things to do is teach Bible class to little kids. I especially like teaching the stories that are a little gross or scary. The expressions on the kids’ faces are priceless.

2. I have lived my whole life in Texas, with the exception of a couple of summers spent in Idaho, when my dad staked mining claims in the early 1970’s.texas

3. I have seen every episode of Gilligan’s Island. Even the TV specials where they got rescued and re-stranded.

4. My favorite aisle at the grocery store is the one with the coffee, chocolate syrup, and peanut butter. The combination of those smells delights me.

5. I read Little Women a dozen times in the third grade. That’s when I decided I wanted to be a writer.

6. I have the original script to Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope memorized. I’m a complete geek.

7. I enjoy travel. I have a long list of places I’d like to see before I die.

8. I like to study history and geography. I am also a nerd.

9. I adore pirates, spies, Vikings, detectives, and space cowboys– real and fictional.pirates

10. I hate killing off characters in the stories I write. I will agonize and mourn for them for days. I know; it’s a problem.

11. I like birds, but only in pictures. They always poop on me. And no, I don’t believe that’s good luck.

12. I enjoy watching old movies, especially ones with Cary Grant or Audrey Hepburn, or both.

13. I dream in color. Always. Once I even had a dream in cartoon. Really.

14. My favorite authors are Ian Fleming, Rex Stout, and Agatha Christie.

15. I love holding babies.

16. I have an irrational fear of clowns, sharks, and alligators, and a rational fear of spiders, snakes, and scorpions. (I have been stung by scorpions twice.)

17. I am allergic to strawberries. Not the throat-closing-can’t-breathe kind of allergy, but the hives-from-my-nose-to-my-knees kind.


18. I was 38 years old when I finally got my ears pierced.

19. When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would always respond with “Carol Burnett.” I still do.

20. I can carry entire conversations with movie quotes and song lyrics.

Anything else you’d like to know? Just ask.

Body in the Bathtub

Or, How My Favorite Stories Have Ruined My Life

I recently took a trip to Dallas for a team training event. One afternoon our team was meeting in our hotel room for a quick chat, when it was discovered that our bathroom ceiling was leaking—a lot. We called down to the front desk and reported the situation, and the manager assured us that they were moving us to the room next door right away.


As my roommates and I began to gather our things, I quietly mentioned to one of the other women that I hoped someone was going to check on the guests upstairs. I told her that as a suspense writer, my brain immediately jumped to the possibility of a body in the bathtub above us. My friend agreed—her husband is a police officer, and she knew exactly what I meant.

Unfortunately, the very young hotel steward that arrived to move us next door overheard our concerns, and started to panic about the suggestion. My roommate volunteered to accompany her on the upstairs visit, and it was discovered that the guest above had over-filled his tub and the pipe at the over-flow drain had a crack in it. Everyone was fine. No dead body. That was last month.

This week I was watching an episode of one of my favorite TV shows, and as the story began to resolve, I kept my hands clutched together and held my breath. You see, they had solved the decades-cold crime, caught the bad guy they’d been chasing for several seasons, and all that was left was for the leads to kiss. So I waited for the sniper to strike, or the tables to turn, or the other shoe to drop, or whatever was about to happen to ruin everything.

My darling husband just looked at me and shook his head. “You can’t even enjoy this happy ending, because NCIS and all those other shows you watch have conditioned you to expect something bad at the end.”

He’s right. I never expect happy endings anymore.After all, how can the story go on if there is nobody in peril. My favorite books are Rex Stout, Agatha Christie, Francine Rivers, Pamela Fagan Hutchins, and Terry Blackstock. My favorite TV shows are NCIS, Castle, Person of Interest, and the like. My favorite movie is Charade. I like cliff-hangers. I like twists and turns. I love the thing you don’t see coming.

I saw a quote the other day: The suspense is terrible; I hope it lasts.

Yes. This is my life’s motto now. It’s wonderful for a story, but terrible for day-to-day digestion.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.

Some Movies Just Make Me Feel Old

I spent my teen years in the 1980s and had a blast. But let’s be honest here—our big hair was out of control.

Last night our family watched a 1985 TV whodunit called Murder with Mirrors, based on an Agatha Christie mystery, starring Helen Hayes as the “dithering” Jane Marple. It was a quaint film, and featured a very aged Bette Davis and a very young Tim Roth.

Liane Langland played one of the main characters, Gina Markham. Ms Langland acted in only a few films, according to, but I couldn’t help but notice her. Her acting wasn’t especially fantastic, but her hair—bright red with thick curls—was huge! Even in the scenes where she wore it pulled up, it was easily the largest single “do” on the set, and that’s saying a lot, considering the fluffed and feathered style worn by John Laughlin, the actor playing her husband.

The cast’s wardrobe also cracked me up. Of course, Ms. Hayes’ and Ms. Davis’ attire was classic and demure, but the younger cast members all wore layers and layers of heavy, boxy sweaters and jackets and scarves. (Except in the soccer/ football scene, in which the young men all wore very short shorts. Yikes!)

I watched the movie intently, trying to solve the mystery along with Miss Marple and Inspector Curry. I did guess the murderer’s identity, but not without all of these distractions. I’m a great fan of Agatha Christie, though not usually her Marple mysteries. They are typically solvable only with a key piece of evidence known only by Miss Jane, and she refuses to reveal this piece until the last second. For this film, the writer decided to leave a few breadcrumbs for the audience, rather than keep it true to the original book.

When the credits began to roll, I was pleased that I had deduced the solution before the end of the film. However, the feeling was tempered with the nostalgia of my youth. It was mostly a “what were we thinking?” kind of romanticism. I’m getting old.

Is this film one of those essential pieces of cinema history that shouldn’t be missed? Nope, unless you enjoy a movie in which a mid-80s sedan drives into a flimsy iron gate and explodes on impact. My kids and I figured that maybe they constructed the gate from C-4 or dynamite. It was the 80s.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.

It Takes All Kinds

Over the last few weeks, I have watched several movies from varying genres. I enjoy everything, well—almost everything.

I watched the silent film, Metropolis (1927), and found myself mesmerized by it. Though it has 25 minutes of footage that has lost its battle with time, the story still holds up. Watching the movie for the first time (I had seen excerpts before, but never the whole thing.) I discovered how the masterpiece had obviously influenced the entire movie industry. Some parts were comically Seussian, and others were dark and Orwellian. The film was certainly ahead of its time cinematically.

I revisited a few of my favorite comedies like Young Frankenstein (1974), Haunted Honeymoon (1986), Support Your Local Gunfighter (1971), and Duck Soup (1933). These silly features range from horror spoof to western to political satire. In Duck Soup, Harpo Marx takes the idea of running with scissors to the extreme.

I watched a few action flicks, too. I tried to watch Gamer (2009), but the whole thing sickened me and I turned the movie off after about eight minutes. I can count the number of movies that I’ve quit on one hand, so this is a big deal to me. This is NOT family friendly, and I don’t recommend it at all. Considering the cast, I was extremely disappointed.

On the other hand, I enjoyed Source Code (2011) much more than I expected. It included twists and turns and explosions, and just enough romance to keep your attention. It was a little bit like Groundhog Day meets Quantum Leap, but with a serious tone. I especially appreciated the nod to QL with Scott Bakula playing (voice) the main character’s father. It was smart and witty, and, even with the mind-bending twists; the audience empathizes very quickly with the leads.

We watched the 1965 version of Agatha Christie’s ‘Ten Little Indians.’ With a cast that included the manly Hugh O’Brien and the beautiful Shirley Eaton, we guessed right away that this interpretation would not stay accurate to the book’s ending, and we were right. Fabian and Wilfrid Hyde-White added their unique touches as well. It was still fun to watch, and the fashion was terrific!

We finished the parade of our private Spring Break film fest with the first installment of Mission: Impossible (1996). Our boys hadn’t seen the first three of the M: I series, and we wanted them to have a background before we watched Ghost Protocol. As we watched, I marveled at how much I had forgotten about the story. If you haven’t seen it in a while, watch it again. It honors the 1960’s TV series, and brings the technology into the present. The fact that in 1996 email was new and cell phones weren’t common made me wonder at the rapid advancement of technology. It’s fun.

I like watching different types of movies from different times. It pulls me away from my tendency toward mysteries and romantic comedies. It helps me notice and appreciate camera work and technical details in film. It encourages me understand the artistry and passion that goes into each film.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.