Top Ten Playground Rules

The weather was gorgeous this week and allowed ample time for outside activities and playground fun. We’re now working on playground rules and socially acceptable behavior on said playground. Of course it all goes out the window with the first toddler meltdown but we did make some observations. 20140310_170432

  1. Just what are you supposed to do with boogers? It is never, never, never socially acceptable to wipe them on your cousin or younger sibling. It’s okay, if you absolutely have no other choice, to wipe them on your own clothes.
  2. Yes I know the dog is barfing. No we do not need to go look. Yes I know she’s eating it. I’m grossed out too. Refer to item 1 above if you want to talk about gross.
  3. That big black and yellow striped, fuzzy thing with wings is not a butterfly. Do not touch it.
  4. Vultures eat dead things. It happens. Yes I feel sorry for that dead squirrel, too. No I will not chase that large flock of very large vultures away. Sorry kid. Nature can be cruel. Watch anything on Nat Geo or Discovery and you’ll think Zombies are harmless.
  5. Throwing mulch on the slide is probably not a good idea. Sharp pieces of chopped up wood can end up where it’s not supposed to be. It will not feel good.
  6. What goes up, comes down. Do not throw the mulch. It will end up in your hair. And you will need another bath. And mommy will be tired of giving you a bath six times a day and may not be so gentle this time.
  7. Just because it’s a fruit snack does not mean you should put it in your mouth. If you have to pick the mulch off of it—and please tell me you didn’t eat the mulch—then it should probably not be eaten. Sorry kid. Life sucks.
  8. There is such a thing as ladder etiquette. If someone is coming up, wait your turn to climb down. Do not climb down while they are climbing up. You end up sitting on their head and that looks silly.
  9. If you spin the swing around and around and around and then let go, it will unwind around and around and around and you will be—what we adults call—drunk. You may stagger a little and giggle because you think it’s funny. It’s not funny. You may barf. Like the dog. Refer to item #2.
  10. There is a reason daddy put a fence around the playground. Yes, I know grandma is on the other side of the fence. Ha Ha.  20140331_170825

My twisted thoughts

I’ve recently discovered I’m a contradiction. I’d do good in a Coen Brothers movie because I can go from laughing my head off at the dark and twisted to awwww’ing over something cute and cuddly.

The contradiction really shows in my Twitter and Facebook posts.

platformSee, there’s this thing we writers are supposed to do to advance our careers and gain new readers. We’re supposed to build a platform. A platform is the method(s) a writer uses to get their name in front of agents, publishers, and most importantly, readers. Social media has made building a platform much easier than years past. But still, it takes time, patience, and effort to not only get your name out there but to grow and nurture these relationships you’re building. One step at a time. A platform is ever-evolving. The more you grow as a writer, the more your platform grows.

A brand, on the other hand, is just what it implies. Unless there’s been a big mistake by a delivery driver, you’re not going to find a Coke in a Pepsi cooler. Thus, you’re probably not going to find a Stephen King novel in the romance section. A lot of writers do cross murder-mystery-partygenres and many use pen names so loyal readers of one genre don’t rebel when they pick up a Sci-Fi/Fantasy when they were expecting a mystery.

So, where am I in all this? I’m still building my platform—as I said earlier, it’s an on-going thing. And the brand as a mystery writer is falling into place as I’m establishing relationships with other writers and readers. And here’s where the contradiction is coming in.

I post a lot on Twitter about crime, for a few different reasons. 1) The psychology behind it interests me, 2) as a research tool or plot idea generator for other crime writers, 3) some of it is straight out of a Coen Brothers movie and I just adore them.

confused_jackBut I also post a lot about dogs. I’m a dog lover. And I post a lot about the trials and tribulations of parenting and they’re often funny. My own kids didn’t have one or two kids, they had litters. And as the Granny Nanny to eight of them, I have an over abundance of toddler-related material ready at the whim.

So how can I follow up a too-funny tweet of a picture of Casey with a goofy hat on with a tweet about a horrific murder with all kinds of twists and turns. Beats me. I’m just as confused as you are.

Maybe my brand should be a dog loving, toddler fan, mystery writer?

Memories snob


Ava making snow angels, and memories

We had a decent snow a few weeks ago. The kind where you can actually bring out the sleds. It was a magical time for the kids.

It brought out a lot of comments on Facebook about “when I was a kid, we used to…fill in the blank.” Was the snow better back then or what?

I’m finding that as I (clears throat) get a little older, my friends around the same age and I talk about our childhoods a lot. We did have great childhoods. We grew up in the 60s and 70s with 3 channels on black and white tvs, vinyl records played on something called a record player, and the ice cream man wasn’t on a national registry.


The Willis kids’ snowman

I must confess it irritates me a little when I hear people my own age compare the magic of our childhoods to the childhoods’ of  kids these days. Who died and made us the ‘my childhood was better’ gods?

My grandkids play Minecraft. A lot. They play on ipads, Kindles, and the Playstation. I don’t even pretend to understand the game. But it’s okay—it’s their memories. We played Life, and Clue, and Masterpiece. Our games weren’t better. They were different.

We danced and acted silly and made up dance routines to the music of The Beatles and The Monkees. My grandkids do the same to the music of someone named Lorde and a group named One Republic. Thirty years from now their kids will be doing the same thing to music of an artist not even born yet. And it’s not wrong. It will be their childhood memories. Not wrong. Just different than mine and yours.


Aiden and Jeana’s pup, Wrigsley

They have Nickelodeon on demand. We had Bonanza on Sunday nights. Technology doesn’t make their childhood any less significant or wondrous. It just makes it different.

When I was a kid, my favorite meal was broiled hamburger patties, fat steak fries, and field peas. I still fix it sometimes and think of my mother fondly every time I do. Ava’s favorite meal is kielbasa, dirty rice, and green beans. One day she’ll fix it for her own kids and think of Nina when she does. Her childhood memory of her favorite meal will be just as sweet as mine, though it’s two different meals separated by several generations.


Emma making her own snow angel

Looking at the pictures of the grands playing in the snow made me laugh. I couldn’t help but to think of comments from my age group about the depth of snow when we were kids. “When we were kids, it snowed up to our knees!” Well, yeah…the knee-to-ground ratio of a six year-old probably hasn’t changed much over the years so don’t slight the grandkids’ snow memories because you think your snow was deeper.


Paisley. Making memories.

It’s their childhood. It will be their memories. And they will be just as wondrous and magical as ours.

How to lose 500 Twitter followers in one easy step

1) Clean out your “following” folder.

That’s it. That simple.

I’ve been pretty active on Twitter lately (except for the last few days because I was rebelling at the need to) and when I went to follow a new follower, the Twitter guards wouldn’t let me. The reason it said was because my “percentage” of following vs. followers had reached a maximum. So if I wanted to follow anyone new, I had to “unfollow” someone. Twitter

I’d never unfollowed anyone so I went all the way back to the humble beginnings when I was happy to have followers and offered a follow back in gratitude.  But while perusing my following folder, I discovered there was actually a lot of dead weight. A lot of accounts I didn’t even know I was following. They were cogs in my wheel of progress, not allowing me to follow those I really wanted to follow. Their posts on my timeline were irrelevant to my interests. Their posts often prevented me from finding the real posts I wanted to see because I’d get frustrated having to wade through all the crap to find the real stuff that interested me. So I’d give up. My retweeting became sporadic because I couldn’t find anything worth retweeting.

So I did a mass cleanse. Spring cleaning if you want to call it. I unfollowed nearly 1000 accounts and it felt good. I could breathe again. Until, almost instantly, my number of followers started falling. I mean, not just following, but nose-diving. What the heck?

Twitter-Unfollow-ToolsDid every single one of the accounts I had unfollowed get a red flag notification that I had “unfollowed” them? I suddenly felt guilty. And a little like the deer caught in the headlights. How did they know? Come back! Come back all my little followers! No wait…

I unfollowed you first. I’d rather have meaningful cyber relationships (that’s kinda funny if you think about it) with a few thousand rather than just another notch on the bedpost to brag about the numbers.



What’s in a name?

Shaw Photography Group

photo by Shaw Photography Group

Had a friend recently comment on granddaughter Ireland’s name and asking about the history of it. Well, yes—it does have a history. And like almost everything else involving my grandkids, it’s kinda funny.

But first, here’s a list of the other eight grandkids and the story behind their names.

  • Jeana Ajaanna: A good example of what happens when teenagers have babies. I was a teen mom too and my son’s name is spelled funky so I’m just as guilty.
  • Landon Allen: Daddy Allen vetoed Garrett so Nina went with “Landon”. It fits.
  • Emma Rose: Garey and Ellen were in the old fashioned phase. Never known a name more suited to a child than “Emma”. Gorgeous name, gorgeous baby, gorgeous kid.
  • Ava Hailey: Allen wanted to go with Hailey but I asked him which name was more in tune with a CEO of a major corporation—Ava or Hailey. And, knowing he was a huge Sinatra fan, I threw in the fact Ava Gardner was the love of Frank’s life.
  • Paisley Rae: Brad Paisley’s song “I’m Still a Guy” was popular at the time and Ellen thought Paisley would make a cute name. It’s cute, quirky, unique—just like our Paisley.
  • Aiden Chandler: Garey and Ellen had his name picked out with their first pregnancy. Three daughters later, they were able to use it.
  • Ivy Leigh: Ivy was a somewhat difficult pregnancy which put Nina in the hospital a few times. During one of those emergency visits, a nurse told Nina she had named her daughter Avery and Nina and Allen kinda liked that. They liked that it was similar to Ava, so they changed it to an “I”, shortened it to three letters to match Ava’s and, there you go.
  • Casey Allen: Casey is daddy Allen’s mother’s maiden name and Allen liked it because it was a wee-bit Irish. Yes, Landon and Casey share middle names, named after their dad. By this time, Nina and Allen had run out of names.

And now for Ireland Chandler…coming up with a baby’s name is never easy but when you have twins, it’s double the anguish. We went back and forth with the twin cliche options—should they sound the same, begin with the same letter, compliment one another, be totally opposite, etc…

I suggested Casey and Chandler—the maiden names of each of the grandmothers. Nina and Allen liked the idea and decided that was what it would be. Casey and Chandler. Shower invitations were sent for Casey and Chandler. Everyone was excited about Casey and Chandler. Nina’s best friend Sananda McGehee made beautiful wall hangings for the nursery, one for Casey and one for Chandler.

And then sometime between the shower and the first labor pain, Nina confessed she didn’t want to name her baby Chandler. She really liked the name Ireland. She had heard it used before, and well, we are a wee bit Irish, right?

And that’s how our Ireland came to be Ireland. Possibly the only child with a wall hanging proudly displaying their middle name.image (4)

You call that work?

Remember when you worked a job where you were given a week, two weeks, maybe more each year for vacation? Some jobs even gave you a certain number of sick days, or personal time as some call it. Remember when you punched a time clock? Or signed your name at the end of the week to a time sheet?

You went to work. You worked. You clocked out and left work at the end of the day. Life was simple. writer's clock

And then you became a writer.

There is no time clock to punch. No scheduled vacation, sick days, or personal time. There is no time “off”. Why? Because if you’re really a writer, a true creative soul, there is no down time. You can’t shut off your inner self.

I worked at the local television station for a couple of years when my kids were small. I worked in the studio production department for the six and eleven o’clock news. It was a fun job but it ruined my ability to ever simply “watch” a television show. Or even see a movie for that matter. My mind is not only following the story, but I’m critiquing the lighting, the camera work, the background music, etc…

When I am able to stop thinking about the actual production of the show, I’m thinking ahead of the plot—the writer in me won’t let the show just unfold—I’m three scenes ahead.


Jeremy Davies as Dickie Bennett, “Justifed”

One of my favorite television shows is “Justified”. The acting, writing, direction, story lines, everything about the show is take-your-breath-away perfection. The second and third season featured the Bennett family—and I, ever the sucker for a great character, fell head over heels for Dickie Bennett (expertly played by Jeremy Davies). The character was so well written and acted, Dickie Bennett became somewhat of an underdog one might actually find a ping of sympathy for. And the whole time I’m crying for Dickie Bennett, I’m wondering why? Why—because although I’m fully engrossed in the show, there’s a part of my brain going “Wow! What a character! I wish I could write a character like that!” So I’m back to working.

It’s the same with a book. Fellow writers—do you ever wish you could just pick up a book and read for the pure joy of it? Or are you working when you read? I study the style, the dialogue, the pace…and sometimes, it drives me nuts! Because there I go, working again.

writers-quotes-story-writing-34823017-400-263I took Sam for a walk today around the block. Great being outside in the fresh air, away from the laptop, away from the pen and paper, away from the cell phone. Just me and Sam—and a thousand characters running around inside my head. Scenes played out, dialogue was spoken, opening lines were toyed with…a simple walk turned into a working break.

And then there’s social media. As writers, a lot of our books’ success or lack of can be traced to social media and how the book is “marketed” on such. So each time I sign on to Facebook, am I working?  Each tweet I send, am I working? Yes. I’m building and nurturing a relationship with readers. Sorry—playing Candy Crush probably doesn’t count.

So I’m going to wrap this up so I can go watch the Superbowl. I like the commercials. Advertising at its best. I’m always fascinated by the production that goes into some of the spots, the quick and to-the-point message delivered in thirty seconds, the words used to…oh darn. There I go again. Working.


Gathering the team

Wink of an Eye, my first private eye novel, will be released Nov. 18, 2014. According to my editor at Minotaur Books, she’ll have the first edits to me in a week or two. Things are rolling right along. And Nov 18 will be here before I know it.

istock_buildingteamSo I’m gathering the team. Team Gypsy. See Wink’s main character is PI Michael “Gypsy” Moran, a sexist jerk who has no clue he’s a jerk which makes him all the more likable.  He’s charming to a fault with a wicked sense of humor, gets his heart broken too easily and cares too deeply. And he’s actually pretty good at his job. I can’t wait for the world to officially meet him.

That’s where I need your help. I’m gathering a team of people interested in helping me promote Wink of an Eye in the coming weeks. We want to create a buzz. Generate excitement. Get the word out. How ever you want to say it—we want the world to know Wink of an Eye is coming. And that it’s good. And that they’re really going to like Gypsy.bookbuzz_category

What do team members do? Some ideas…

  • Spread the word through social media (Facebook, Twitter, Goggle+, etc)
  • Post a review (Amazon, Goodreads, B&N, etc)
  • If you’re a blogger, post a review on your blog or make your blog available for a guest spot
  • Spread the word through word of mouth (suggest Wink to your fellow readers)
  • Email me with your own ideas or with other avenues I may not be aware of

What do team members get in return?

  • The pride of being involved from the ground floor of a book launch (Yeah, right?)
  • Eligible for free stuff through giveaways (Now I have your attention, right?)

t-shirt_templateSo how about it? Want to join Team Gypsy? I’d be honored to have you.

To sign up, all you have to do is drop me an email through the form at the bottom. It’s that easy.



Playing favorites

I’ve been asked by different people on different occasions which of the nine grandkids is my favorite. Certainly you have a favorite, they say. It’s okay for grandparents to have favorites, they say. Well, the answer is rather simple. And may even be shocking to some. Yes I do have a favorite.

And my favorite is the one who needs to be grandma’s favorite at that time.

I’ve always been a believer in the who-needs-what-the-most form of parenting, and in this case grandparenting. Some days it’s Jeana, some days it’s Landon, other days it’s Emma, or Ava or Paisley, or Aiden or Ivy, or Casey or Ireland.

Shaw Photography GroupJeana is a teenager. Sometimes she needs a sounding board. I don’t mind listening. She takes school seriously and makes terrific grades. She doesn’t mind walking away from stuff or even friends when she’s uncomfortable. When she needs someone to sound off to, she’s my favorite “what’s it all about” teenager.




Shaw Photography GroupLandon is ten which is the new thirteen which is mega confusing. He told me the other day he used stick deodorant that day but wasn’t sure he was supposed to – “I don’t even have hair under my arms yet,” he said. So that day, he was my favorite “I’m not sure I’m ready to grow up” kid. He kept me and Ava and Emma laughing with silly jokes on the way home from school that day.




Shaw Photography GroupEmma has a way with words and at eight, she’s at the awkward age where we have to tell her sometimes it’s best to say nothing rather than always tell the truth. Like grandma’s car stinks. So Emma’s my favorite “tell it like it is” kid. Sometimes she needs grandma to help her find alternative words that don’t carry as much stink, er, sting.




Shaw Photography GroupAva is my walking medical condition. She had a broke arm, you know. Every day when I pick them up from school, I ask how their day was. One day last week, Ava’s answer, in one breath, was, “I had a migraine in the morning, threw up at lunch, and now my leg hurts.” She’s seven. I asked if she told her teacher and she said no. She ran off to play with Emma as soon as we got home and I don’t think ever mentioned her suffering to her mom. She’s my favorite “I used to be the baby and now I have three younger siblings” kid. 



Shaw Photography GroupPaisley is my contradiction.  She’s the most stubborn, independent, my-way-or-the-highway kid you’ll ever meet. Yet, Emma and Ava are her idols. Stuck like glue to their every word. Copies every dance move they invent. Sings every song they sing. But she is her own person. Lay her clothes out for her and she’ll come out wearing what she wants to wear. She’s my favorite “I’m five and I do know best” kid. I usually let her wear what she wants to wear. As long as were not going out in public. 



Shaw Photography GroupAiden is my tender hearted kid and knows grandma’s got his number but tries anyway. If he’s sad or had his feelings hurt, he’ll turn away and cry. When it’s real, grandma grabs him up and hugs on him. When it’s not real, he’ll look over his shoulder to see if grandma’s watching. That’s when I ignore him. Grandma’s got his number. He’s my favorite “sometimes I just need a hug” kid.



Shaw Photography GroupIvy, who is the middle child of five, does not share middle child traits like normal middle children. In Ivy’s world, it’s all about Ivy. She just turned three so I’m not going to get too concerned just yet. She can go from being your best friend to your worst enemy in a matter of seconds. Ask Aiden. He knows. So Ivy is my favorite “I love you I hate you” kid. It’s a hard fall from that pedestal so grandma will be there to catch her. 

Shaw Photography GroupCasey is, like Paisley, a contradiction. He will take Ireland’s sippy cup to her, only to snatch it back and run with it. He will offer her one of his little fruity snacks only to cry when she takes it. He’ll run to you with arms wide open only to veer off in a different direction as soon as he reaches you. He and Ireland just turned two but sometimes it seems like he has the thought process of someone much older. And then he puts his chubby little hands over his eyes and cries and he’s a baby again. So Casey’s my favorite “can’t he just be a baby a little while longer” kid.

Shaw Photography GroupIreland is the baby baby who thinks she’s old enough to hang out with “the girls” – Ava, Emma, and Paisley. She doesn’t want to play cars with her brother Casey or cousin Aiden. She wants to sit beside Ava and watch her play on the ipad or wants to dance when the girls are dancing or make plastic bracelets with them. She’s only two but thinks she’s ten. And when the older girls won’t let her play, she gets her feelings hurt and crawls up in my lap to hold her while she pouts. So Ireland is my favorite “I’m just going to sit here and cry” kid. And yes, grandma sometimes holds her while she does. 

So do I have a favorite? Nah. But I do have nine.

All photos courtesy of Shaw Photography Group